By Richard Chambers | January 25, 2016
I have written many times in this blog of the challenges and opportunities that a dynamic and fast-paced global marketplace creates for organizations and the internal audit functions that serve them. In 2015, I admonished practitioners to learn to audit at the speed of risk, warned of the dangers of toxic cultures, and urged us to leave our comfort zones.
Those messages appeared to resonate with you. I thought it would be interesting to recap the top 10 blogs for 2015 based on readership.
In January, a trio of events provided a great opportunity to discuss the risks associated with poor communications in a crisis. This blog looked at how the airline industry handled flight cancellations ahead of a major winter storm, the indirect impact of a measles outbreak on a vaccine maker, and the inadequate initial response from a major sports team to cheating allegations.
This March blog was particularly fun to write because it was inspired by a discussion I had with young professionals just starting their careers in internal audit. The blog examined various aspects of career development, from identifying strategic career goals to knowing when it’s time to move to the next challenge.
The theme of volatile business dynamics driving changes in internal audit was a common one in 2015, and this August blog looked at the dangers associated with practitioners sticking to the traditional areas of financial audits, regulatory compliance audits, and various common operational audits. Many risks facing organizations today fall outside of those areas, so we must be willing to step out of our comfort zone to provide the best value to our organizations.
In August, I wrote about a 10-K filing by Hertz Global Holdings Inc. that heaped blame on its former CEO for a long list of accounting and internal control problems. I expressed my skepticism that such expansive problems could be the work of just one man.
I’m not the first to raise the potential for unwanted influence on internal audit when the function doesn’t report directly to the CEO. But this June blog cited data from an IIA Executive Audit Center survey that showed functions that report to the CFO dedicate in excess of 60 percent more resources to U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley compliance than their counterparts who report administratively to other executives.
Another month, another scandal. September brought the shocking admission from Volkswagen that it developed software to cheat emissions regulations. At the time I wrote about my hope that VW would keep its pledge of transparency to uncover the truth behind this scheme, but the company’s new CEO has since backtracked on that admission and a promise of transparency.
In October, I raised the question of the impact of the growing reliance on internal audit by regulators. This view of internal auditors serving as regulators’ “boots on the ground” raises serious questions about who we serve and what conflicts such regulatory pressure might create with our stakeholders.
A lengthy internal investigation by Toshiba revealed prolonged and systemic financial misstatements at the venerable Japanese company, which overstated profits from 2008 to 2014 by US$1.2 billion. The investigation concluded the company’s internal audit function bore part of the blame, and this July blog examined just where things went wrong.
This November blog struck home with readers for its introspective view about how we operate our functions and protect them from the risks associated with inaccuracies or perceived bias. As I wrote then, “An overarching goal for any internal audit function is that it be a bastion of integrity and credibility within its organization. From my experience, one of internal audit’s more valuable assets is its reputation.”
The shocking announcements of charges and arrest at one of the world’s largest and most recognized sporting institutions in late May set the tone for other corporate scandals that defined 2015. This blog offered five lessons for internal audit, the first being, “Internal audit must raise a yellow card when corporate culture creates susceptibility to corruption.”
In retrospect, 2015 provided a plethora of opportunities to discuss various aspects of our profession. The scope of the conversation and the level of interest from readers reflects just how diverse and stimulating internal auditing can be.