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Building a Better Auditor: Making the Most of May

Blogs Elizabeth Sullivan, CIA, CRMA, CCSA May 30, 2023

Since formally establishing the internal audit function in my organization and setting out its initial goals and priorities, being an advocate for the department and sharing how we add value to the organization has always been part of the plan. May is recognized as Internal Audit Awareness Month and provides a great opportunity to connect with our internal business partners. 

It is a time for organizations and individuals around the world to focus on the importance of internal audit and the role it plays in enhancing governance, risk management, and internal controls.

For the last six years, the internal audit function here at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has used the month of May to drive awareness. We meet one-on-one with our clients to share information about the department, our service to DC Metro, and how we add value through assurance and advisory services. Despite limited physical engagement with our internal clients during the pandemic, we leveraged the power of visual media by spotlighting audit awareness through online newsletters and prerecorded videos. The videos featured the audit team working remotely but engaged and ready to assist.  

Holding an annual event to raise awareness of the profession and its value only requires a bit of planning and organization. It certainly helps to have teamwork and cooperation from the audit staff and the full support of our communications and marketing teams. We also make use of the readily available tools and resources provided by The IIA. The general message conveyed in The IIA tools are especially inspiring — “Inside every great company, there’s good company” and “Inside you make an impact.” Both themes help our internal clients understand the benefits of having a strong internal audit function that serves as an internal partner within the organization — one with a vested interest in helping it achieve its objectives.

Elizabeth Sullivan with Senior Vice President of Bus Services Leroy Jones at the DC Metro’s Internal Audit Awareness event.

We organize a series of activities to raise awareness about the importance of internal audit throughout the month. This year, our communications team featured an episode on internal auditing on Metro Voices, the organization’s internal podcast. 

I shared information on the role internal audit plays in ensuring that the organization's operations are running smoothly and efficiently. One of the highlights of the podcast was being joined by two internal audit clients, Vice President of Bus Maintenance Ray Alfred and Director of Fare Payment James Bongiorno. 

They discussed their experiences interacting with internal audit and how their departments have directly benefited from our services and proactive collaboration on risk management matters. They also alluded to the benefit of having risk advisory services readily available “Inside” the organization.

The podcast provided an opportunity to educate our internal business partners on our alignment to the organizational strategy. We also clarified misconceptions or myths about internal audit and internal auditors. Listeners were left with a clear understanding of how internal audit fits into the fabric of our organization. We play a supportive role that ultimately contributes to providing safe and reliable public transit service to the region.

We traditionally end the month with an in-person event, promoted through email invitations, posters, and digital displays. This year was especially exciting for my team and me because the in-person event held at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. was the first since the pandemic. The event included a series of fun activities to allow direct engagement with our internal clients, complete with internal audit-branded giveaways and treats. The event could not have been successful without the full support of my awesome and talented team, all of whom were fully engaged, excited, and eager to advocate!

The Metro Audit and Compliance team with General Manager and CEO Randy S. Clarke.

It is incredibly rewarding to hold a special event to mark Internal Audit Awareness Month. My advice to internal audit departments around the world is to seize the opportunity of the month of May for advocacy and awareness. You can never stop educating the organization about who auditors are, what we do, and how we add value. Although we have successfully hosted an annual awareness event for some time, it is clear to me that with more than 12,000 employees, there will always be people who are learning about us for the first time.

Overall, organizing this event has helped us promote the value of internal audit and raise awareness. I look forward to continuing to advocate for the profession well into the future.

Elizabeth Sullivan, CIA, CRMA, CCSA

Elizabeth Sullivan is vice president, chief risk and audit officer for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and is based in Washington, D.C.