Internal audit functions have changed for good and will continue to change. So the earlier accountants working in internal audit departments understand this and prepare for it the better.
Internal audit function was already undergoing some serious natural transformation before COVID 19 took the whole world by surprise and quickened the internal audit function transformation.
In this article, I have shared some common sense tips that helped me survive the COVID-19 pandemic as the head of Internal Audit of an organization in one of the industries that was worst hit by the COVID pandemic. The tips are so simple that a lot of finance professionals working in the internal audit function tend to take them for granted. 10 things you must do as an internal audit professional in order to remain relevant during and after COVID 19
- Review and tighten controls: one of the best ways of protecting an organization is by ensuring that controls are near water tight. People are going through an unprecedented phase and are susceptible to taking advantage of any control weakness in a company’s business process. Successful businesses understand the importance of strengthening its controls during pandemics like the one we faced in the form of COVID-19 and would do whatever it takes to get and retain someone with the right control improvement skills.
- Take risk management very seriously: the surprise outbreak of Corona virus exposed the unpreparedness of many enterprises. No one saw it coming and as such only very few who take risk management very seriously are able to withstand the heat (though not without feeling the pains). If you are a finance professional working in the Internal Audit function and still struggle with designing and implementing robust enterprise risk management strategies, the time has come for you to have a rethink.
- Compliance to various COVID guidelines must be strictly monitored: yes, it is very important that all organizations comply with various guidelines/ rules that various health agencies are dolling out as this is in the best interest of all and sundry.
- Provide strategic streetwise solutions: internal auditors in their consulting capacities are expected to make recommendations that fully factors streetwise happenings and yet strategic in nature. A straight jacketed internal auditor will quickly become predictable and irrelevant if the board stop seeing that element of commercial reality in their recommendations. This is the best time to embrace external strategic information and make sense out of it.
- Promote the idea and culture of good Governance: good governance however you look at it has been and will continue to be the little difference that makes all the difference. Internal audit can only try but will not make much impact in an environment where the issue of good corporate governance is not given the required backing and attention.
- Predict change and provide suitable moves: your ability to predict change and make economically sound recommendation is very important in this time. Things are rapidly changing and internal auditors should be seen as useful catalysts that helps organizations navigate the risky terrains that comes with changes. An internal auditor should at the very least be proficient in change management.
- Be a source of motivation to all stakeholder of the business you work for: people need motivation now more than ever. The reassuring reputation of internal auditor puts them at a unique position to motivate all stakeholders.
- Improve your knack for detecting fraud: COVID -19 came with a lot of hardship (perceived or real). A lot of people with criminal mind with be on the lookout for opportunities to commit frauds. As an internal auditor, your ability to detect fraud from the minutest red flag is a unique selling point in this COVID era and beyond. I recommend you read free articles on www.acfe.com for doses of insightful real live stories that will help sharpen your knack for sensing fraud where others cannot.
- Get yourself immersed in IT risk management: the increased online related activities that the outbreak of corona virus has caused has come to stay. You will agree with me that this increased internet activity will increase Cybersecurity risk. Hackers have intensified in their unholy quest to cause damages to IT assets of unprepared organizations. As an internal auditor, this is the time to get yourself immersed into the nitty gritty of IT risk assessment, IT risk management, and IT security – trust me, you will never go wrong with this.
- Educate people around you (especially on Financial Management and Personal Finance matters): a lot of people out there are in dire need of sound financial management tips. As a finance professional working in the internal audit department, you are well equipped to educate people on personal finance best practices. We all know that cost savings is the bread and butter of personal finance and who else is more qualified to give advice on personal finance arena than an accountant whose daily job is to help organizations save cost and improve controls (financial and operational).
I urge everyone to remain calm, focused and compliant to all the guidelines for staying safe in this phenomenally trying times. For us to have come this far is an indication that we will see the end of this challenging time