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Internal Audit: Why the Sad Face?

Inconvenient, invasive, embarrassing.

You could be mistaken for thinking we are referring to those intimate medical tests we endure for the purpose of maintaining good health and the early detection of potential health issues.

We are in fact referring to the emotions associated with internal auditing.

And not dissimilar to those intimate medical tests, Internal Audits exist for the purpose of maintaining good health and the early detection of potential health issues; the health of your organisation.

So an Internal Audit is a good thing, right?

Why then the sad face when people mention internal auditing?

Our experience points overwhelmingly to the term itself: Audit.

Audit (definition): an official inspection

Audit (synonym): inspect, examine, survey, look over, go over, go through, scrutinize, probe, vet, investigate, look into, enquire into, check, check into, assess, appraise, evaluate, review, analyse, study, pore over, peruse, sift, dissect, go over with a fine-tooth comb, delve into, dig into

People instinctively make Internal Audits personal; they regard an Internal Audit as a test of their work performance and fear the consequences of the findings. And why wouldn’t they when the definition of the term audit clearly states, ‘an official inspection.’

An Internal Audit is a process and system inspection, not a people inspection, with the main objectives being:

• Risk Assessment: identify opportunities to eliminate, reduce or manage risks

• Understanding: investigate the current processes in action to review their relevancy or redundancy

• Identify process trouble spots: are the procedures and controls designed effectively and efficiently?

• Test Controls: verify whether controls are working

• Findings: identify discrepancies between the documented process and the actual process, report observations and make recommendations to improve the process

For the organisation, internal auditing is a powerful tool for organisational improvement through:

• Elimination, reduction or management of risks

• Improved efficiencies in processes

• Elimination of wasted resources

• Reduction in repeat errors

For the people within the organisation, internal auditing is a powerful tool for job satisfaction due to:

• Streamlining of work processes

• Clear identification of roles and responsibilities

• A safer and healthier work environment

• Challenges and frustrations associated with the process can be voiced

• Suggestions for process improvement can be put forward

• Contributions to improving the organisation is valued

So, what does it take to turn the Internal Audit frown upside down?

Maybe it’s as simple as a shift away from the term ‘audit’ and including a positive message:

• What is the most frustrating part in the processes you follow?

• What is working well and not working well in the current process?

• How do you suggest we can overcome these issues?

• Can you show me what you are referring to?

• I’ll just document that so that we can review an update to the process; then others can benefit from your suggestions.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) deems internal auditing a critical tool for achieving business objectives and continuous improvement. Internal Audits are mandatory for Quality Management Systems (ISO 9001), Environmental Management Systems (ISO 14001) and OH&S Management Systems (ISO 45001).

ISO Helper are industry experts in the development, implementation and maintenance of user-friendly compliant management systems and can provide guidance and assistance with the Internal Audit requirements of ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001

How has your organisation embraced Internal Audit? Share your experiences in the comments below.