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By Nandita Parekh
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Internal Audit: A Case for Advocacy

I entered the profession of Chartered Accountancy in 1984 and started calling myself ‘primarily an Internal Auditor’ somewhere in early 1990s. At that time, Internal Audit was at a nascent stage in India, and not many people understood what an internal Auditor really did.

Fast forward to 2022, and strange as it may seem, one thing that has not changed over these three decades is that even today, not many people in India understand what an Internal Auditor really does. I accept that Internal Audit has strongly anchored itself in multinationals, regulated industries (mainly BFSI sector), and public sector corporations – yet, for many large-listed companies, the role of an Internal Auditor remains somewhat hazy; and for most of the small and medium sized businesses the Internal Audit function exists only in name, if at all. For public at large, ‘Internal Audit’ holds no specific meaning.

At the other end of the spectrum, a question keeps cropping up in my mind – is the Internal Audit profession an attractive choice for young graduates starting their careers, or even mid-level professionals considering career shifts? Are there avenues for exploring the subject or a keenness to know more? I acknowledge, somewhat reluctantly, that ‘Internal Audit’ is not a word that one commonly hears amongst young professionals from different fields exploring their first job or internship, or from a mid-career professional as a sought-after career option.

What could be the reason? Well, there could be several reasons, but to my mind, the prominent reason is lack of systematic, well-thought-out efforts for advocacy.

Advocacy of a profession essentially means creating awareness about the existence and the relevance of the profession, in a concerted, strategic manner. It involves engaging with the stakeholders – regulators, organizations, aspiring professionals, Boards and CEOs, to drive home the potential of a well-structured Internal Audit function and the value that an Internal Auditor can add. Advocacy is best spearheaded by professional associations that are set up with the primary objective of promoting one or more professions and are led by experienced professionals who have a wide network and followers. But advocacy can also be done by committed Internal Auditors who believe in the value of Internal Audit, or stakeholders who have experienced the value of Internal Audit.

Advocacy of Internal Audit would mean reaching out to those who are not Internal Auditors but can promote or strengthen Internal Audit. It would mean engaging with organizational leaders and decision makers, reaching out to campuses, career counsellors and HR professionals. Engaging with media for rightful publicity or awareness campaigns, and with social media to create the right amount of curiosity about Internal Audit would help greatly.

In the past decade, and even more so in the post-covid era of lockdowns and virtual interactions, there have been a huge number of webinars and long duration training courses for skill enhancement for Internal Auditors. Various professional associations, such as the Bombay Chartered Accountants’ Society (BCAS), the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) have created great learning opportunities on virtual platforms for internal auditors to hone new skills, to adapt technology, to embrace analytics and to become the ‘change agents’ in this rapidly transforming world. And many Internal Auditors pan India have made good use of these opportunities – be it webinars, conferences, certifications, or long duration courses – to better equip themselves on various fronts.

With the Internal Audit profession in India raring to go, it is time for advocacy – for connecting with our stakeholders effectively, systematically, and consistently. It is also time to create the right amount of curiosity amongst young professionals so that the best talent would find its way into Internal Audit teams. The profession cannot prosper if starved of good talent and if it is not endorsed by its key stakeholders.

As I end this blog, let me nudge all the Internal Auditors out there to become the ambassadors of our profession and engage in effective advocacy at every opportunity. Advocacy can start with each one of us – when we talk with pride about Internal Audit at dinner tables; when we talk about value proposition of Internal Audit at business conferences; when we engage with Board members to update them on the changing face of Internal Audit; when we articulate effectively during cross functional meetings on the potential of Internal Audit; and when we work with professional associations to create awareness about Internal Audit. It is through interesting interactions and dialogues with those outside the profession, through collaborative actions and strategic thinking, that we will be able to raise Internal Audit to the place that it deserves.

For Internal Auditors in India, if 2020 was the year of rapidly adapting to a changing world, 2021 was the year of rapid learning, then, can we make 2022 the year of advocacy? This is a win-win proposition.

We invite you to share your ideas and suggestions. Your comments will give life to this blog.

The Blog solely reflects the personal views and opinions of the author(s).

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