Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  12 Aug 2011

AUDITING: Unlocking SA’s Business Potential with Help from the IIA SA


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In today’s brutally competitive and increasingly risky marketplace, a skilled internal auditor has become a company or organisation’s secret weapon: an independent advisor who challenges current practice, champion’s best practice and acts as a catalyst for improvement with the objective of ensuring that strategic objectives are met. Moreover, he or she can provide vital input to the improvement of governance, risks and controls, and provide valuable input in strategic planning, market analysis, compliance, change management and the use of information technology.

Yet misconceptions abound about both the profession itself and the critical role it plays in providing the all-important competitive edge, and so surprisingly few entities make use of this artillery - to the immense detriment of the South African economy.

The Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa (IIA SA) aims to change this unnecessary state of affairs.

With a membership of almost 8,000, the IIA SA, a Section 21 non-profit organisation, is the custodian of the international internal auditing standards and sets the career path standards for internal auditors in South Africa promotes the profession in the country, and advocates adherence to international best practices.

Better yet, the IIA SA is backed by the power of the global Institute of Internal Auditors Inc. (IIA Inc.), the internal audit profession’s global voice, recognized authority, principal educator and chief advocate that boasts more than 170 000 members in over 160 countries.

Certainly, therefore, the IIA SA has the means to help unlock the vast untapped potential lying dormant in far too many South African companies, and, according to IIASA CEO, Dr Claudelle von Eck, the key lies in raising awareness of the profession and its crucial role within companies and organisations among both employers and the general public alike.

“There are many misperceptions about internal auditing,” Von Eck explains. “Just one example is the perception that an internal auditor has to be a chartered accountant (CA). This misperception is probably as a result of the fact that the general public do not understand the difference between external audit (a financial discipline) and internal audit (a multidimensional discipline). The problem with this is that a CA’s training is in finance, and so a CA will not necessarily be fit for all internal audit roles and may therefore not adequately focus on all of the many risks that lie outside of finance.”

To illustrate, von Eck hypothesises about the risk of a communicable disease spreading across a company’s entire board.

“Obviously that would have dire consequences. Risk is very big and extremely broad in business.”

Underestimating the importance of the profession presents another problem, as it results in many highly-skilled internal auditors both reporting to, and sitting at, the wrong levels within an organisation.

“It is vital that internal auditors move from the backroom to the boardroom,” explains Von Eck. “Right now internal auditors are seldom involved in strategy sessions, yet they can contribute greatly to identifying risks in the strategy and ensure that there is enough focus on the controls to mitigate those risks. It is imperative that organisations understand that the Head of Internal Audit should be reporting to the board via the audit committee. Audit Committees often do not understand the role of internal audit and therefore do not utilise internal audit at optimum level. Internal audit effectively should be the right hand of the Audit Committee.”

The list goes on, she adds, and that is why one of the IIA SA’s primary goals is to ensure that the various training and qualification courses the IIA SA offers are embraced by organisations as key tools in up-skilling their internal auditors. The IIA SA wants to ensure that its global Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) qualification specifically quickly becomes recognised by employers as the premier qualification of the profession, because it is the one qualification that ensures that an internal auditor has the multidimensional view of business that is needed to be a great internal auditor.

“The recent financial crisis and the increased risks in the marketplace have demanded that internal auditors themselves up their game,” Von Eck continues. “As an authority and body of influence within the profession, the IIA SA serves internal auditors by offering technical guidance, professional training programmes, certification programmes and continuing professional development opportunities, while also organising conferences and networking opportunities.”

She adds that the certification programme has multiple entry points and that it is specifically designed to achieve international standards, meaning that professionals from CA’s to town planners can easily convert to the preeminent global internal auditing qualification.

While the effects of the financial crisis are still being felt, it has presented a golden opportunity for companies and organisations to improve their business in a myriad ways through utilising internal auditors as assurance providers and internal business consultants. The IIA SA is there to guide and assist every step of the way


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