In the latest evidence demonstrating the political pressure on internal auditors, a new report from the Internal Audit Foundation says one in four practitioners around the world face pressure to suppress or change audit findings.
The Internal Audit Foundation released the new report based on data gathered in the 2015 Global Internal Audit Common Body of Knowledge survey to demonstrate the need for continued vigilance on ethics and conduct codes in organizations. The survey of more than 14,500 internal audit practitioners in 166 countries says 20 percent of staff-level auditors have felt pressure to change or bury audit findings. Going further up the ladder, 29 percent of chief audit executives reported the same.
“This confirms the fact that internal auditors continue to face the kind of political pressure you might expect of someone who’s the guardian of truth,” says Richard Chambers, chairman and CEO of the Institute of Internal Auditors. “This survey finds practitioners are asked to change their findings or suppress their findings on a regular basis.”
The report’s authors also draw some conclusions around non-responses to the same question. The survey shows 14 percent of staff auditors did not answer the question about pressure on audit findings, while 5 percent of chief audit executives left that one blank.
That suggests intimidation, the report says. “If someone hasn’t been pressured, you’d expect they’d be proud to say the organization hasn’t been pressured,” said Chambers. “So when we see someone say they decline to answer the question, that leads us to wonder what is the environment they’re facing?”
The authors combine those who reported pressure with those who didn’t answer at all to create a combined “pressure score” of somewhere between 34 percent and 38 percent for all internal auditors.
The findings suggest companies still have some work to do to shore up codes of conduct and corporate culture issues, says Chambers. “A lot of people are asleep at the wheel,” he says. “I don’t believe that organizations that have healthy cultures will see a lot of pressure on internal auditors to suppress information.”
Chambers suggests internal auditors looking for support should appeal to the audit committee. “This is another place where the audit committee has to be there to be a backstop for internal audit,” he says. “The audit committee has an absolute obligation to shareholders to stand behind internal auditors and make sure their reports are accurate and complete.”