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Discuss And Critically Evaluate The Role Of Internal Audit Function In Corporate Governance

Discuss And Critically Evaluate The Role Of Internal Audit Function In Corporate Governance



This paper analyzes the different factors that are related with the role of the internal audit function in corporate governance. This is important issue because of the fact that new definition of internal audit had been able to add new functions and responsibilities to individuals and groups that are responsible in internal auditing. This paper review the factors which lead the expansion of internal audit function to include corporate governance; review the implications of the expanded role of internal audit and review the issues that can possibly compromise the role of the internal audit function in corporate governance. In order to tackle these issues, different literatures were gathered and used, including textbooks, online articles and journals.

1.0 Introduction

Well performing internal audit function is considered as one of the strongest means in order to monitor and promote good governance system in company. Good governance is considered as a tool that is used in order to achieve strategy of a company (Belay 2007). Thus, a growing number of earnings restatements by openly traded companies joined with allegations of financial statement fraud and lack of accountable corporate governance of high-profile companies such as Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom and Adelphia has helped to grinded the ever increasing attention on corporate governance in wide-ranging and the audit committee in particular. As a result, the function of the committee had changed over years (Rezaee & Olibe 2003).

The ethical standing of any profession is critical to its reception in the society (Mintz 1995). According to Armstrong (1993) ethical conduct focus at the center of each cause for survival of work. This is the cause for the auditing profession where in ethical failings can have far-reaching economic influences and result to the extensive financial agony. Ethical values are fundamental for the internal auditors because of two important reasons. First, internal auditors are regularly faced with various ethical problems which can confront their standards (Goodwin & Yeo 2001). They may face cases which involve and oblige them to speak out (Barrier 2003) and this is not always simple, for the most part when pressure is being exercised by senior management to go with the flow and not to make waves (Thompson 2003). Second, with the existing emphasis on corporate governance, it is becoming more and more familiar that internal auditors can play a key function in increasing business ethics and corporate honesty (Moelle 2004). As one of the important keystones and foundations of corporate governance, internal auditors are anticipated to work with audit committees, boards and senior management to assist put the right tone at the top and helps to guarantee that ethical behavior flows down all the way through the ranks to lower level employees (Bailey & Gramling 2003).

2.0 Role of Internal Audit Function in Corporate Governance

2.1 Internal Audit

According to Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) (1999) internal auditing can be defined as a self-governing, objective and consulting activity that is designed in order to add value and develop the operations of an organization. It helps an organization to carry out its objectives by bringing an organized, disciplined approach in order to assess and develop the effectiveness of risk management, control and governance processes. Thus, internal auditing is being performed by professionals with a thorough understanding of the business culture, systems and processes, the internal audit activity which offers guarantee that internal controls in place are sufficient in order to alleviate the risks, governance processes are helpful and competent, and organizational goals and objectives are being met. (IIA 2004). 

The primary functions of internal audit are:

  • recognizing and assessing important exposure to risk and contributing to the development of risk management;
  • assessing the sufficiency and efficiency of controls which encompass the governance, operations and information system of the business and endorsing their constant improvements;
  • evaluating the dependability, consistency and truthfulness of financial and operational information;
  • appraising the efficiency and the competence of operation;
  • weighing up and protection of assets;
  • assessing the compliance with laws, regulations, bylaws and contracts;
  • knowing the extent to which operating and program objectives have been recognized in connection with those of the organization;
  • examining operations and programs in order to decide whether the results are in compliance with the objectives and goals;
  • determine whether the management has established sufficient control criteria to appraise the completion of objectives and goals;
  • making suitable recommendations for improving the governance process with connection to its functions;
  • promotions of suitable ethical values;
  • guaranteeing successful performance management and responsibility;
  • corresponding to risk and control information;
  • avoiding and distinguishing fraud;
  • organizing and managing activities and sharing information with other internal and external providers of assurance and consulting service; and
  • taking a dynamic role in maintaining  ethical culture of the organization (Hassan n.d.).

This definition suggests that internal audit has undergone a paradigm shift from an emphasis on accountability about the past to improving future outcome which help auditees operate in more effective and efficient manner (Nagy & Cenker 2002). Aside from that, these functions and definitions pertains on the critical success factors for an internal audit function


Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1 Critical Success Factors for Internal Audit Function



source: (Low & Ong n.d.)



Independence is being established via the organizational and reporting structure. On the other hand, objectivity is being achieved by an appropriate mind-set. Based on this, the internal audit activity helps to evaluate risks that can be encountered that are related and causes by governance, operations and information systems of organization. This is connected with: success and competence of operations; consistency and reliability of financial and operational information; protection of assets; and conformity with laws, regulations and contracts.

The results of the risk assessment will help the internal auditors to assess the adequacy of effectiveness of how risks are identified and managed in different areas stated. Aside from that, these results enables companies to evaluate other important aspects that are connected with ethics and values inside the company, together with performance management, communication of risk and control information within the organization to smooth the progress of the good governance process. Furthermore, the internal auditors also focus on the process of offering different recommendations in order to develop essential areas where in opportunities or deficits are identified. While the management focuses for the internal controls, the internal audit activity offer assurance to management and the audit committee that internal controls are all effective and working as planned. The internal audit activity is also handled by the chief audit executive (CAE). As a result, he or she defines the scope of activities, authority as well as independence for internal auditing in a written charter that is approved by the audit committee. In addition, an effective internal activity is considered as a vital and important resource to be used by the management and the board or its equivalent, together with the audit committee because of its knowledge of the organization, together with its culture, operations as well as risk profile. The objectivity, skills as well as knowledge of the capable, knowledgeable and competent internal auditors can help to add value to the internal control of the organization, together with the risk management as well as governance processes. In connection, an effective internal audit activity can help to guarantee to the other stakeholders including regulators, employees, and providers of finance as well as shareholders (IIA 2004).

Based on these, high performance internal auditing demands broad thinking and capabilities. Currently, leading internal audit organizations are no longer limited to the aspect of hazard avoidance and conformity. Instead, organizations need to focus on showing a command of risk management, business process improvement as well as knowledge which are considered as more of characteristics of a consultant than a traditional internal auditor. Aside from that, internal auditors are no longer required to focus on the financial audits solely; instead they are being pushed to offer value that will support the management across all areas of business operations including IT, marketing, project management, etc. Therefore, it is vital that organization must look to strategic partner in order to support their in-house internal audit capability (PriceWaterHouseCoopers 2002).


Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 2 Changing Role of Internal Audit




Source: (WaterHouseCoopers 2002)

2.2 Independent Research

In order to discuss and critically analyze the role of internal audit function in corporate governance, different literatures will be reviewed that are connected with corporate governance and internal audit. The following are the independent research used in the study.

2.2.1 An Assessment of the Newly Defined Internal Audit Function

The study conducted by Nagy & Cenker (2002) focused on the assessing the newly defined internal audit function. In June 1999, the IIA formally adopted a new description of the internal auditing function. As a result, the new definition shifts the focus of the internal audit function from one of declaration to that of value added and attempts to move the profession towards a standard-driven approach with a delicate and keen individuality. The paper enables to focus on different issues that pertains if the new definition had essentially reflects the day-to-day activities of internal audit departments and if the functions of internal auditors had altered. Based on the discussions and constant with the new internal audit definition, the orientation of internal audit has changed towards consulting and value added services and away from the customary assurance services. Such a change elevates several interesting issues which include: has the external auditor rewarded for the decrease in assurance services formerly offered by internal audit, and who decides the range of activities for the recently defined internal audit function? The result of the study showed that the responses differs drastically among companies from a traditional assurance orientation to that of a value-added and consulting orientation, with most of the companies positioned somewhere in the middle (Nagy & Cenker 2002).

2.2.2 Risk Management: The Reinvention of Internal Control and the Changing Role of Internal Audit

The study of Spira & Page (2003) explores the changes due to the fundamental redefinition of Turnbull guidelines about the nature of internal control as an attributes of corporate governance in the UK. The paper focused on sociological standpoints regarding risks as well as other conceptualization in order to outline the discussion regarding the internal control and risk management within the UK corporate governance. Corporate governance replicates the power relations and political resolutions between shareholders, creditors, management and labor as they are personified in a given institutional history (Jackson 2000). For this reason, the idea of risk had become essential to corporate governance and become connected to the idea of internal control. In the process, the significance had changed. Internal control was under assessment, partially because of well-publicized corporate failures and partially as a result of moves towards professionalization of the internal audit function. Express changes in IT and decision-making practices in many organizations were motivating moves away from strict, recognized control to situations where liability for control was being pushed down the organization hierarchy and where mistake by management could not be attained through conventional, fulfillment based internal audit. The study had been able to show an observation that within the corporate governance policy, risk management has become closely aligned with internal control which proposes the amount to which risks are administered has now been captured as a form of accountability, rather than its focus – considered as an index against which a measurement of performance is being calculated. Thus, the redefinition enables to offer a new vision of risk management as part of the accountability process, which involves an alteration which shadows the difference between responses to risk, through risk management systems and accountability of risk (Spira & Page 2003).

2.2.3 Governance Factors Affecting Internal Auditors’ Ethical Decision-Making

The study of O’Leary & Stwerat (2007) explored the ethical decision making of the internal auditors as well as the influences of corporate governance mechanism thereon. Aside from this, the paper also analyze whether ethical decision making is being influenced by years of experience in internal auditing. The result of the study showed that the internal auditors as a group show a reasonably high sensitivity towards ethical issues. In addition, when assessing the likelihood of internal auditors taking appropriate action when faced with ethical dilemmas, evidence exists that they are not always convinced their peers would behave ethically. The reason behind this perception is that the key corporate governance mechanisms appear to have little influence on the capability of the internal auditors to act in ethical manner, during dilemma in the workplace. The results of the study have implications for the internal audit profession with connection to training and the provision of support mechanisms in order to strengthen the ability of the internal auditor to withstand different pressured when facing ethical dilemmas. If internal audit is considered as a vital component of corporate governance, therefore it is vital that practitioners in the said are must have strong support in the process of making ethical decisions. On the other hand, exactly which components of corporate governance could help to offer the most meaningful support regarding the needs in further assessment? (O’Leary & Stewart 2007)

2.2.4 Internal Audit Independence and Corporate Governance

The study of Barriff (2003) focused on internal audit independence and corporate governance. The study analyzed the internal audit function as a first line protection against insufficient corporate governance and financial reporting. With suitable support from the Board of Directors’ Audit Committee, the internal audit staff is in the best position to collect intelligence on unsuitable accounting practices, insufficient internal controls and unsuccessful corporate governance. The result of the study showed that the internal audit scope should be extensive to address strategic business issues as well as increasing some fulfillment audits. There is a strong support for internal audit to play a major role in monitoring in conformity in positive manner. As a result, the Chicago area internal audits groups previously have taken vital steps to move past the dialogues stages and have become vigorously engaged in conformity monitoring (Barriff 2003).

Above all, the study of

2.3 Evaluate Research Methodologies in Literature

In order for Nagy & Cenker (2002) to summarize an assessment of this new definition obtained through structured interviews from 11 internal audit directors of large publicly traded companies. By using this methodology, the researcher had been able to address 4 important areas of interests including: audit scope, organizational structure, risk management and audit committee. By interviewing directors, the researchers had been able to focus on the direct perceptions of the directors regarding the changing definition of internal audit function.

On the other hand, Spira & Page (2003) explored the change in internal control using sociological perspectives on risk and its conceptualization to frame the debate about internal control and risk management within the UK corporate governance arena. By using this method, the paper had been able to show that progresses in corporate governance reporting requirements offer chances for the misappropriation of risk and its management by groups, at the same time, enables to evaluate the current changes in internal audit.

The study of O’Leary & Stewart (2007) used exploratory study; this had been done by presenting the five ethical dilemmas for 66 internal auditors. For each scenario, a key element of corporate governance was operated in order to assess its influence on ethical decision making. These were audit committee support; management truthfulness regarding different accounting policies; management integrity regarding pressure on internal audit; external auditor characteristics; and organizational code of conduct. As a result, the researcher had been able to show the different ethical decision-making related to internal audit and corporate governance.

Above all, the study of Barriff (2003) used descriptive method with the use of e-mail survey. The said method was considered as effective means in eliciting responses to a structured set of questions. A total of 53 responded to the survey. This enables the company to gather the perceptions of the respondents in easier and simpler manner.

2.4 Findings

Traditionally, internal audit has been seen as a monitoring function or known as the organizational policeman and watchdog, accepted as a essential part of organizational control but deemed submissive to the accomplishment of major objectives of a company. An assessment of the forces towards internal audit in the preceding years had been able to demonstrate the effort to show that the purpose can help to add up values. Furthermore, outsourcing of the internal audit function had become accepted during 1980s, because of the fact that the costs of internal audit were being strongly examined in most of the companies and organizations, because of the application of different re-engineering techniques used in business processes. The move to outsourcing had become one of the dynamic forces for change in the internal audit. The large accounting firms saw chances and prospects for new business. According to Bruce (1996), a risk management approach to strategy by top management and an aspiration to view it in an incorporated way was a movement towards amalgamation of external and internal audit, but the need for autonomy of external auditors offered a countervailing force. The response of the internal audit society has been to highlight professionalism and the possible of internal audit to add value. This had changed in 1979, where in Morgan had been able to illustrate and argue about the different aspects that are related with the objective of internal auditors which changed from controller to controller-adviser s a part of the process of professionalization of internal audit. However, the said claim had become difficult, particularly during the time when internal auditors, are attempting to institute their co-operative relationship with the auditees, were in they are required to choice to formal authority in order to gain access to information or even to deal with the different problems that have been exposed by the audit (Spira & Page 2006).  

Corporate governance developments around the world have reaffirmed the responsibility of the board in the process of ensuring the success and efficiency of the internal control framework of the company. As a result, the key role of the internal audit is vital in order to support the board in order to ensure sufficient oversight of internal control as well as in the process of doing so form in the integral aspect of the corporate governance framework of the organization. Thus the key role of the internal audits focuses on the process of assisting the board and/or its audit committee in the process of discharging its governance responsibilities by focusing on the following:

  • an objective assessment of the existing risk and internal control framework;
  • methodical examination of business processes and connected controls;
  • reviews of the subsistence and value of assets
  • a source of information on major frauds and irregularities
  • unplanned and informal reviews of other areas of concern, including unacceptable levels of risk
  • reviews of the agreement framework and specific compliance issues
  • reviews of operational and financial performance
  • suggestions for more helpful and competent use of resources
  • appraisals of the achievement of corporate goals and objectives
  • advice and comment on devotion to the values and code of conduct/code of ethics of the organization

The problem with this is that, in the process of challenge to sufficiently discharging their responsibilities, they commonly find themselves in anomalous position. For instance, they report to senior management within the organization, but they are expected to review the conducts and effectiveness of the management in objective manner (Low & Ong n.d.).

2.5 Knowledge and Use of Academic

The knowledge of the researcher regarding the different information about internal audit and corporate governance were based on her background in study. Particularly, because of her knowledge about the subject, together with the different issues and events that can be found and observed in the real world, this topic had become interesting and important for the researcher. On the other hand, in order to present a strong paper regarding the critical evaluation of the changing role of internal audit due to incorporation with corporate governance, the author focused on different literatures that are related with the topic, which have been explained and presented in the paper. The researcher looks for different literatures in both online and offline libraries in order to come up with the different textbooks, online articles and journals which will help in order to come up with this paper.

2.6 Focused Critical Review

In order to focus on the different factors that are related with the relationship of corporate governance and internal audit, it is important to focus on four cornerstones of corporate governance which include: the audit committee, management, external audit and internal audit (Grambling & Maletta 2004). In connection, it is important to take note that the board of directors is considered as the key players in corporate governance by the different regulators as well as governance committees around the world (Cadbury Committee 1992). In connection, the audit committee has a big and important role in the process of enhancing the quality of the financial reporting (Davidson & Goodwin-Stewart 2005). Based on this, an effective audit committee must focus on strengthening the position of internal audit function by offering an independent and supportive environment where in the chief internal auditor can raise matters that are affecting the entire management process (Goodwin 2004). Aside from that, the executive management has a significant role in corporate governance by ensuring that the suitable systems of internal control and risk management are all in place.

The problem is that according to Cynthia Cooper, it is the behavior of the corporate leaders that have a huge impact on the performance of the organization. This is connected with the process of establishing a strong ethical environment. While internal audit can be used in order to assist management in order to instill a strong ethical tone in the entire organization, a poor attitude by the management can make it hard for the internal auditor to uphold ethical behavior. This can be observed in situations and problems that are connected with the whistle-blowing, particularly when the internal job security or threatened progress of the internal auditor (Arnold & Ponemon 1991).

Above all, it is important to consider that both the directors as well as the management can fully help in order to improve the ethical environment inside the organization by focusing on the process of development and enforcement focusing on the robust code and ethical conduct. Different researches concluded that corporate ethics, together with training and monitoring programs can help to influence the behavior of the employees (Pickard 1995).

3.0 Conclusion

The internal audit function is a control function with a company or organization. The main role of the internal audit function is to guarantee that management official controls are being applied in effective manner. The internal audit function, even though not obligatory, subsists in most private enterprise or corporate entities, and in government including federal, state, country and city governments. The task, quality and strong point of an internal audit function may be different extensively within the approach of top executives and traditions of companies and organizations. IT audits is one of the latest promising areas of support for internal audit. The internal group, if suitable staffed with the resources carries out the process of monitoring and testing of IT activities within control of the organization. Of given concern to private corporations is the dealing out of data and creation of information of financial relevance or materiality. It is important to consider the fact that management has a very vital role in the efficiency of an internal audit function. Their concern with the dependability and reliability of computer-generated information, from which the decisions are being made, made it more critical. In organizations where management shows and demonstrates concern about internal controls, the role of the internal audit grows in stature. As the internal audit function grows in the course of experience, training and career development, the external audit function and the public can depend on and will based on the quality of the internal auditor’s function and the public can depend on the quality of the internal auditor’s work. With a good, constantly improving internal audit management and staff, corporate management is not doubtful to allocate reviews, consultation and testing responsibilities to the internal auditor (Gallegos 2004).

4.0 Recommendations

In order to ensure the good relationship of the internal audit with corporate governance, the following must be considered: working relationships, strong leadership, independence, awareness and problem solving, professionalism and progress through sharing.

  • Working Relationships. It is important to take note of the fact that successful corporate governance is founded upon strong working relationships between important groups which include: management, the board, external auditors and internal auditors. Like what the case of WorldCom illustrated, it is vital for each of the said entities to have unrestricted access to the others, particularly if it is about information on risks and control, therefore, these must be communicated in free manner. In addition, there should be a comfort level which helps to enable any of the important entities to pick up the phone at any time and seek advice, which can be done as a group or in private manner.
  • Strong Leadership. The internal audit function must have a strong tenured chief audit executive in order to effectively work in the different processes that are connected with governance. It is important to add that it takes some time in order to establish effective working relationships, thus it takes some important strength, experience and judgment in order to resolve different issues that are related with governance in satisfactory manner.
  • Independence. If the governance bodies are to focus on the work of internal auditors, independence is vital. Therefore it is important that functionally, internal auditing must report to the audit committee in direct manner, thus in most cases, it is important to be administrated to the chief executive officer. The said reporting relationship will not just help to develop independence, but also help to promote open communication that is vital for effective governance.
  • Awareness and Problem Solving. For management and boards to come to depend on internal auditing in governance process, it is not sufficient just to make sure that the different activities related to audit plan are performed in yearly manner. It is important to take note that contributing to the process of governance also involves active involved in the aspect of planning sessions as well as high-level meetings which deal with the different issues that are related with the governance issues. In addition, internal auditors must sustain independence, but it is vital to go beyond just knowing what is wrong, it is important to part of the solution. In order to do this, it is important to know and understand the business, together with the different factors that are related, together with the different opportunities and challenges available.
  • Professionalism. Internal auditors can help to bring governance process; however, it is vital to make sure that the internal auditing is practiced in professional manner. All the true professions require devotion to the different ethical principles and standards. Each profession is dependent on the common body of knowledge, where in each has formal quality control mechanisms.
  • Process Through Sharing. Every time that a major audit failure or control breakdown occurs, organization can learn by analyzing experiences of others. Therefore, it is important to focus on researchers, particularly; focusing on the case of Enron, where in the auditors must focus on what happened and why it had happed. The information gathered can be used in the decision-making process (Institute of Internal Auditors 2002).


5.0 Bibliography


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