So I’ve been overseas again. This time to Asia. So sorry for missing my post last week – obligatory food poisoning intervened.
So what inspired me audit-wise whilst there? Well I was struck by how similar and homogenous the world really is. Governments, marketised commerce, shopping and brands, ways of working, knowledge and information. All are really being affected, and consolidated, by globalisation. This is good in some ways. It reduces the barriers to entry for global trade, allows small and different nations to trade with each other, makes the conduits available for economic development and good practice open across the globe.
What does it mean for internal auditing? I think it makes auditing a global process. One that has some universally understood precepts and principles, with the same sense of process, and ‘what way is up’. It means that although I may not speak the same language, I do speak ‘audit’ fluently, and am therefore, understood globally.
Yet in some other ways this global homogenisation is unhelpful. In one way the great benefit of travel is to experience different cultures and experiences. To have a real sense of difference when walking in another place. So for audit. Yet as soon as you do leave the outside world abroad, you enter the business world of offices and the, very similar, audit world. These are depressingly similar. Internal audit may be a little further behind in some countries than in the UK, still counting cash and checking endless preventative controls at a low level, but it is still recognisably internal audit.
I admit I am not yet well travelled overseas, so I may reflect on this blog in a year’s time and decide that I have got this wrong and that there is a mass of great and diverse internal audit practice out there. I long to be inspired by something new in internal audit! I wonder as I wander whether international auditing standards and the plethora of global guidance actually creates a single profession of internal auditors inspired by a single set of principles, or whether it is creating automaton internal auditors all looking to ‘comply’ with global rules. For this is one thing you notice in many non-western countries, a greater rules and compliance emphasis. I am not sure if this is taking an American lead, or whether it is a cultural thing born out of those countries themselves. Certainly the contingent, principles based, UK internal audit approach is not so prevalent.
So have I been inspired as an internal auditor in my travels? Well yes. The places I have been and plan to travel to, do inspire me to think about the world differently and to be contingent in my delivery of internal audit. It has confirmed that the internal audit profession is still in its global infancy, even more so than in westernised countries. But there is a role, globally, for good internal audit. The challenges of SMEs, large companies, governments and charities in the developing and non-Western worlds are broadly similar as in the West. Good internal audit can be applied globally and it can make a difference. Precisely because good internal audit is cognisant of the context it works within and has the space not to be rules based, it can really, contingently, deliver value in many contexts.
So the real challenge is to ensure that I, as a UK internal auditor, work hard to promulgate the UK model of principles-based internal audit, working within the principles set by the international standards. This means that internal audit can really act as global force to facilitate well governed, risk-managed, and controlled organisations.