Audit & Analytics
Ray Wizbowski Image
Ray Wizbowski
Chief Marketing Officer

The role of internal audit in ensuring strong corporate governance

March 1, 2024
0 min read
internal audit leader presenting to the board

Effective corporate governance is paramount to building and maintaining stakeholder trust in an organization. It encompasses a framework of principles, policies and processes that guide how a company operates ethically, transparently and accountably.

Within this framework, internal audit plays a vital role in ensuring that governance practices are sound and deficiencies are identified and addressed.

This blog post dives into internal audit’s critical contributions to corporate governance, addressing some of the most frequently asked questions.

How does internal audit contribute to the objectives of corporate governance?

Internal audit acts as an independent and objective evaluator within an organization. It provides assurance to the board of directors and senior management on the effectiveness of various elements that are crucial for good governance, including:

  • Risk management: Internal audit assesses the organization's risk management framework, identifying potential threats and evaluating the adequacy of controls to mitigate them. This ensures proactive risk identification and mitigation strategies, fostering better decision-making and safeguarding organizational assets.
  • Internal controls: Internal audit evaluates the design and effectiveness of internal controls across various processes, from financial reporting to operational activities. This helps ensure the accuracy and reliability of financial information, safeguarding against fraud and errors.
  • Compliance: Internal audit assists in verifying adherence to relevant laws, regulations and ethical codes. This helps organizations avoid legal and reputational risks associated with non-compliance.
  • Governance processes: Internal audit reviews the design and effectiveness of governance processes, including board composition, board procedures and communication channels. This ensures transparency and accountability within the organization's leadership structure.

What are the key characteristics of an effective internal audit function in supporting good governance?

An internal audit function that effectively supports good governance possesses several key characteristics:

  • Independence: Internal audit should be free from undue influence from management and other stakeholders. This allows for objective assessments and unbiased reporting.
  • Competence: Internal audit professionals should possess the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to conduct comprehensive and effective audits.
  • Integrity: Internal audit teams must uphold the highest ethical standards and maintain professional integrity in all aspects of their work.
  • Proactive approach: A forward-thinking internal audit function anticipates emerging risks and proactively adjusts its focus to address them, remaining relevant and impactful in the evolving business landscape.
  • Effective communication: Internal audit should maintain clear and transparent communication channels with the board, management and other stakeholders, keeping them informed of audit findings, recommendations and action plans.

How does internal audit contribute to fostering a strong ethical culture within an organization?

A strong ethical culture is central to good governance, fostering trust, transparency and responsible decision-making. Internal audit plays a crucial role in promoting a healthy ethical culture by:

  • Identifying and reporting potential ethical breaches: Internal audit activities can uncover instances of unethical behavior, such as conflicts of interest, accounting fraud or employee misconduct. Prompt reporting of such findings allows the organization to take corrective action and address systemic issues.
  • Promoting ethical awareness: Internal audit can raise awareness about ethical considerations throughout the organization by conducting training programs, communicating company policies and procedures, and promoting ethical decision-making through workshops and communication channels.
  • Assessing the effectiveness of the ethics and compliance program: Internal audit can evaluate the adequacy of the organization's ethics and compliance program, identifying areas for improvement and ensuring its effectiveness in promoting ethical conduct.

How can internal audit collaborate with the board of directors to enhance corporate governance?

Effective collaboration between internal audit and the board is critical for optimizing the internal audit function's contribution to good governance. This collaboration can be facilitated through:

  • Regular communication: Timely and informative communication between internal audit and the board allows the board to stay informed of key findings, recommendations and risk assessments.
  • Direct access to the board: Allowing internal audit direct access to the board without management intervention ensures independent reporting and facilitates open communication about critical matters.
  • Alignment with the board's priorities: Internal audit should tailor its audit plan and activities to address the board's specific priorities and concerns regarding risk management, governance and compliance.

How is the role of internal audit evolving in the current business landscape?

The role of internal audit is continuously evolving alongside the changing business environment. Some key trends shaping the future of internal audit include:

  • Focus on emerging risks: Internal audit is increasingly focusing on emerging risks such as cybersecurity threats, environmental concerns and technological disruptions, adapting its approach to address these evolving challenges.
  • Data analytics and continuous auditing: The rise of data analytics and automation tools allows for continuous monitoring and real-time risk assessment, enabling internal audit to shift from periodic audits to a more continuous and dynamic approach.
  • Sustainability and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) considerations: Internal audit is playing a growing role in evaluating an organization's sustainability practices and its adherence to ESG principles, contributing to responsible and sustainable business practices.

A cornerstone for effective corporate governance

By providing independent assurance, evaluating critical control frameworks and fostering a strong ethical culture, internal audit empowers organizations to operate with transparency, accountability and increased stakeholder trust.

As the business landscape evolves, internal audit must adapt and embrace new technologies, continuously enhance its skillset, and stay ahead of emerging risks to maintain its vital role in ensuring strong and sustainable corporate governance.

Through ongoing collaboration with the board and management, internal audit can continue to be a catalyst for positive change and contribute significantly to the long-term success of organizations.


Your Data Matters

At our core, transparency is key. We prioritize your privacy by providing clear information about your rights and facilitating their exercise. You're in control, with the option to manage your preferences and the extent of information shared with us and our partners.

© 2024 Diligent Corporation. All rights reserved.