Breaking Down the Walls of the Internal Audit Department

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Compliance Week
Excerpt of Article: 

Along with internal control over financial reporting, the internal audit department is increasingly assessing other risks, such as regulatory, IT, fraud, and corruption. With these new areas come the need for added skills and the ability to coordinate better with other departments. "Internal audit has to do a better job educating others and marketing itself," says Sridhar Ramamoorti, associate professor at Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University.

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Forging Relationships

Meeting the growing need to reach out to other departments requires more emphasis on communication and other people skills. Yet some auditors prefer to focus on the technical aspects of their jobs, rather than “seek out the limelight,” says Sridhar Ramamoorti, an associate professor with a focus on internal audit at Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University. He says internal auditors may need to find ways to become more comfortable working with others.

Ramamoorti points out that as an advisory or staff function, “internal audit can sell its recommendations, but it can't tell anyone to do anything.” Of course, that shouldn't be used as an excuse if others decide not to follow the recommendations put forth by internal audit. Instead it may mean that “internal audit has to do a better job educating others and marketing itself,” Ramamoorti says.

Indeed, “communications ability” was ranked second, after analytical and critical thinking when the IIA survey asked respondents which audit skills were most sought after, ahead of accounting, data mining and analytics, and business acumen, among other skills.

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The relationship between internal audit and the board is also critical. Most boards of directors “operate at a bird's eye view of the organization,” says Ramamoorti. Internal audit can become “the eyes and ears” of the board, and particularly the audit committee, Ramamoorti adds. But, this is most likely to happen only if the two groups interact.