As followers of this blog will have realised, this blog represents my own developing thoughts and views of where internal audit was, is and should be. This is very much through my own developmental journey that is continuous. As a colleague of mine says, every day is a ‘school day’. This I find is true. New experiences, thoughts and ideas make me reflect on current and previous clients and audits anew. I hope that I draw these thoughts together in a helpful and useful way for those who interested.

Here’s one less about technical audit, or audit issues or even audit practice. It is about perception. I have previously talked about being sceptical (note not cynical) as an auditor, but not about being naïve. When I was a younger auditor I felt that the audit regime was very much a ‘by exception’ activity. My clients were mostly successful. Disasters and significant risks never seemed to crystallise. All seemed polite and well organised. As I got to know my clients more and latterly crossed over the line to providing audit in-house I have seen how real organisations work. People, culture, dysfunction, irrationality and the downright strange; these are all things that characterise the modern organisation (perhaps always have).

I suddenly realised how the Peter Pan world of my middle-class, big four, accountancy-trained world seemed wholly at odds with how real organisations work. My process-oriented, rational, risk-management mind jars against the lived reality of many organisations.

This also changed as I became a CAE. I was now accountable. Not just for delivering a great audit, but the right audit. That is, there was real pressure to prevent risks from occurring, I was really accountable to my clients and ultimately their boards. I still feel, everyday, a real pressure in the offering of an annual opinion to any client. It is a challenging place to be and I take the fiduciary duty very seriously.

It does take quite a lot nowadays to shock me or take my breath away, but my clients over the years continue to surprise me. Is this because I am naïve? Well I would say not but it is challenging to keep the mindset of ‘it’s all good except’ from becoming ‘it’s all bad unless proven otherwise’.

Perhaps a head of audit should be positive and look on the good side whilst being suitably sceptical of what they see?