Why does everyone have a valid opinion on internal audit? From the person who once checked a production line (quality assurance) to the financial statements auditor who did ‘that controls stuff’ when they were a student. Having a financial statements auditor comment on internal audit is like having a HR person comment on marketing because they once produced a brochure. Or perhaps, to characterise the youth of the internal audit profession and its emergence from its more established parent, accounting, like a doctor commenting on pharmacy, or a psychiatrist commenting on psychology. So it is not new or unique to internal audit, but does reflect in my view, its current state of maturity as a profession.
Yes accountants and financial statements auditors can answer related audit questions but not the internal audit one. Now I am part of that generation that trained as an accountant and then grew into an internal auditor. First as an external provider, second as an in-house provider. It was not until I became an in-house provider that I felt I needed to get an internal audit qualification too. I am glad that I did though as it drew the scales back from my eyes about internal audit. I hope that I am the last generation that qualifies as an accountant and then thinks I am qualified to do internal audit as well. I also hope that others after me qualify as an internal auditor first then add either a generalist business qualification or a specialist one (say surveying for construction, IT for tech companies, marketing for marketing companies, banking for banks or even accounting) to the internal audit one.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that context dependent knowledge is needed to make a successful internal auditor. Also that the profession is a way of thinking and working that is something unique and independent from the accounting and financial auditing profession from which internal audit evolved. What gave me this clue was a colleague, when discussing their work as an internal auditor, stated that when they went out for a meal, they ‘audited’ the restaurant’s processes and were mentally making improvements. This struck a strong cord of recognition in me, as that is exactly what I do! Perhaps an accountant would review the margin and covers, a marketer the branding and promotions, a HR person the working conditions and happiness of the staff and the IT person how IT could enable better service. but we internal auditors look holistically at risk management and goal attainment efficiency and effectiveness.
Internal audit, as I’ve said before and continue to believe, is something unique and independent from financial statements audit, from consulting and most definitely from accounting. We must as a profession live this through being qualified in our craft. I think it is just not tenable to be an internal auditor and not be qualified as such. What do you think?