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On the Frontlines: Telling Our Story

Blogs Harold Silverman, CIA, CRMA, QIAL, CPA May 14, 2024

May is Internal Audit Month. As an IIA member for more than 20 years, I have seen many of these awareness months over the years. Each year, there is a good amount of fanfare from IIA headquarters, its North American chapters, and IIA institutes around the world. To me, Internal Audit Month has always been about raising awareness for the purpose of attracting talented professionals from diverse backgrounds to our great profession.

Attracting more people to the internal auditing profession is an important, but challenging, endeavor. Fewer people are now entering the accounting profession and becoming CPAs, a traditional source of talent. Adding to the complexity is the fact that risks and stakeholder needs are constantly expanding. For coverage of data privacy, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), and other key risks, internal audit leaders need to be looking beyond traditional sources of internal audit talent.

There are other reasons for raising awareness of the profession of internal auditing, as well. To put it bluntly, many of our stakeholders do not understand the integral role that internal audit plays in good corporate governance. This is something I have witnessed since becoming an IIA staff member more than five years ago — and even more so in the past year as a member of the IIA Advocacy team.

In my capacity as the IIA’s senior director for Audit Committee and Corporate Governance Engagement, I have the opportunity to network with corporate governance thought leaders, attend board director conferences, and talk with audit committee members. I am pleased to report that almost uniformly, our stakeholders are supportive of internal audit. But far too frequently, they do not see the full value that internal audit can bring to organizations. 

Many internal audit stakeholders believe that internal audit’s primary role is limited to providing assurance on internal controls over financial reporting. They do not inherently see the CAE as the audit committee’s eyes and ears in the organization. A common theme at events for board directors is that the mandate of audit committees continues to grow. A common theme is that audit committees have become the dumping grounds of the board. When new risks arise, particularly now with AI, they are assigned to the audit committee to provide governance oversight.

Unfortunately, when audit committee members publicly discuss how they can effectively manage these added responsibilities, rarely do I hear them say that internal audit is a resource to help them get a handle on new and emerging risks. That is why I am extremely proud that it is my job to stand up and use my large figure and loud voice to advocate for our profession and suggest that they call their CAE for assistance.

In addition to vocally advocating for the profession with our most important stakeholder — the audit committee — I am also working with IIA staff and volunteers from around the world to build tools to help ensure that internal audit is properly recognized. Some of these tools will be used by IIA institutes to advocate for corporate governance codes and corporate governance frameworks to acknowledge the important role of internal audit. In many cases these influential documents do not even adequately distinguish between the separate and distinct roles of external and internal auditors. 

The IIA embraces our responsibility to take the lead in advocating for internal auditing in the corporate governance ecosystem. However, it is my sincere hope that internal auditors, who have come to love this profession as much as I do, see Internal Audit Month as an opportunity to rally together to raise awareness of how great a profession this is — both to prospective internal audit candidates, and to those who hold the purse strings for internal audit functions.

A competent and independently positioned internal audit function that has been provided adequate resources to fulfill its responsibilities is a tremendous asset to its audit committee, its organization, and the organization’s stakeholders. I encourage internal auditors to take the opportunity during Internal Audit Month to begin communicating the value of internal auditing to your own stakeholders — and to let us know what resources you need to better do so. Happy Internal Audit Month.

Harold Silverman, CIA, CRMA, QIAL, CPA

Harold Silverman is senior director for Audit Committee and Corporate Governance Engagement at The IIA in Lake Mary, Fla.