Internal auditors and protecting the public good

06 November 2019 | Business

Linda Elago - There is greater demand across the world for improved governance and management in the public sector, and this holds true in the Namibian context.

The reason is apparent as government is the single largest business entity, generating significant economic activity through its expenditure and various functions (Unegbu & Kida, 2011). Additionally, the government’s social and economic activities are in part funded by the public through taxes, which further validates the public’s demand for improved governance.

The golden question is, how does the role of internal audit aid in protecting the public interest?

According to the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), internal auditing is defined as “an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organisation’s operations”.

Definition

In dissecting the first part of the definition, it is key to note that “organisation” refers to institutions in both the private and public sector.

The definition further states that internal auditing “helps an organisation accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control and governance processes”.

The latter part of the definition highlights internal audit’s responsibility in assessing and recommending improvements to governance, risk management and controls to ensure that these processes function efficiently and effectively.

Internal auditors evaluate processes to identify and report on areas of mismanagement, wasteful and fruitless expenditures.

Consequently, recommendations are made to either prevent or detect the malfeasance and ensure that proper corrective actions are taken. Through these evaluations and recommendations, internal audit can help public sector organisations manage their resources in the most impactful way, thereby achieving their objectives, and ultimately benefiting the public. Additionally, although it is not a direct responsibility, internal auditors may report on instances of fraud and corruption encountered during the course of their work.

Cornerstone

In extension to identifying and reporting on malfeasance, internal auditors perform services to identify opportunities for optimisation, efficiencies and cost savings.

As citizens and funders of the government’s economic activities, poor governance and risk management directly affects our livelihood, economic and social standing (Chambers, 2019).

Internal audit is a cornerstone of good governance and is instrumental in helping public sector organisations achieve their objectives through its evaluation of and recommended improvements to governance, risk management and control processes. As a result, the government can reap greater returns on its economic activities which can be ploughed back into programs and activities that benefit society at large.

Linda Elago is the manager of internal audit at PwC Namibia. Contact her at [email protected]

References

Chambers, R. F. (2019, October 28). Internal Auditing and the Public Good. Retrieved from Internal Auditor Online: https://iaonline.theiia.org/blogs/chambers/2019/Pages/Internal-Auditing-and-the-Public-Good.aspx

Unegbu, A. O., & Kida, M. I. (2011). Effectiveness of Internal Audit as Instrument of Improving. Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences (JETEMS), 2(4), 304-309.

https://www.iiasa.org.za/page/Technical_IADef

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