The View From: Graeme Clarke FCCA, Director, Governance, Risk and Internal Control, Mazars LLP.
Do clients realise the importance of a strong internal audit function?
Yes. For many public bodies I work with, there is a statutory requirement to have an internal audit service. For others it is best practice. Where clients determine their own need for internal audit, there is often a greater appreciation of the value of a strong internal audit service. I have noticed a shift in the expectations on internal audit, particularly in providing added value. There has been a move from a financial and compliance focus to consideration of the key risks organisations face in achieving their overall objectives. Organisations are also increasingly seeking more comparisons and benchmarking with how others operate as a key function of their internal audit service.
Do public bodies recognise internal audit’s role in improving efficiency and value for money?
Value for money has come back in fashion as a ‘buzzword’ given the current economic environment and public sector funding cuts. Organisations that have not recognised the key role internal audit can play are coming to terms with this. Internal audit has the ability to independently and objectively appraise systems and processes, identifying opportunities for undertaking things in a more efficient and effective manner – which may lead to financial savings and enhanced value for money. Areas can include reducing manual paper flows around organisations; streamlining multiple layers of authorisation/signatures; and challenging cultures of doing things in a particular way because that is the way things have always been done. As a firm we are also noticing increased demand from clients for dedicated value for money reviews and specialist business process re-engineering reviews.
What should the new government do to help?
Government should reduce bureaucracy and red tape, including the overall audit and inspection burden on organisations. There should be recognition of organisations’ own processes for gaining assurance over their internal control environment, coupled with reported outcomes and performance in determining external inspection activity.
What keeps you awake at night?
My two young children crying and getting up early!
Type of clients: My clients are mostly in the public and not for profit sectors, including charities, central and local government and further education colleges,
Favourite hobby: Designing and building gardens at the various houses we have lived in over recent years.
Favourite books: Something completely different from the reports I have to read – such as the novels of Irvine Walsh.