’Internal Auditors Need Financial Independence’ [interview]

Chi Asafor Cornelius, Inspector General, Supreme State Audit Office, talks on role of internal auditors in the governance of companies and government offices.

What is the role of internal auditors in the protection of funds in public and para-public institutions where they serve?

In all institutions, internal audit is an important ingredient in the promotion of governance be it corporate governance, governance in public offices or governance in all entities that want to rely on good management systems that produce added value. The internal auditor helps in ensuring quality services. He helps the General Manager to attain his or her objectives by giving aice, making proposals and recommendations after following up the activities planned by the managers.

How effective is this role when external audits by the Supreme State Audit Office, for example, have been revealing managerial irregularities wherever they sojourn?

If the government has to put in place a policy that is geared towards building the capacities of internal audit organs, it is because government realized that those organs were not performing in conformity with the norms and standards that are internationally-accepted. There are some companies that have good internal audit organs, but the majority need to strengthen the capacities of their internal audit units.

Is this not due to the fact that some internal auditors are subdued by vicious managers in the execution of their functions?

We think that a manager has to implement policy and whenever government notices that that internal audit organs have to be strengthened, it is the role of the manager, first of all, to put them into place. Then, ensure that these organs have the necessary human and financial resources to function and that they build the capacities of those internal audit organs through training.

Since it is government policy, the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Supreme State Audit has been on this capacity-building programme for almost four to five years now. I think it is working. Managers and Board Chairman have to understand that the internal audit organ is a management tool at their disposal. They need it. If they do not have it, they have a problem.

In that case, are there measures to protect internal auditors from the wrath of uncompromising General Managers?

Internal auditors normally respond to the Board. The General Manager cannot just remove them without the consent of the Board. That is one mechanism of protection which is security of employment. However, we need to provide them with more security by ensuring that their independence is strengthened and that the General Manager cannot just at any time go to the Board with a resolution that the internal auditor should be removed from his functions. Secondly, they need financial independence and qualified personnel. There is no entity today that wants performance or results without a good internal audit organ put in place on the basis of internationally-accepted norms or standards.

Source : Cameroon Tribune

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