Revamping law on internal auditors risky, complicated

The Guardian
Published at 10:35 AM Apr 18 2024
Vice President Dr Philip Mpango
Vice President Dr Philip Mpango

EXPERIENCED members of the auditing profession will be thinking hard on how far African governments can establish policies and laws that make internal auditors in public institutions freer, less interfered with by actual employers. This matter is likely to be a current of discussion in the profession and where the law may have grey areas, as to whether internal audits are either advised to work with their corporate superiors or have discretion on the matter. Whether indeed the government will have room to clarify on the issue is open to dispute, though.

Vice President Dr Philip Mpango made an appeal of this sort at midweek when opening the 10th general meeting of the African Federation of Institutes of Internal Auditors (AFIIA) in conference capital of Arusha. There was a sort of gap in what the VP was explaining, for instance whether the issue was for internal auditors to give a true and realistic financial assessment of the specific entity or as it appeared to be the case to render advice on the same. The problem is strictly speaking resolved in the former, as there is no law relating to advice.

Which brings the matter to where it started, as to whether African governments can institute clauses in respective public audit legislations to protect internal auditors from undue influence or interference in their duties. If the law basically recognizes them as internal to those institutions, it is unavoidable that they bend their work to suit the wishes or interests of such institutions/ Unavoidably it is the chief executive officer who from time to time determines what that means.

Otherwise, legislation would have it that internal auditors would report to the government what is happening in an institution, which is beside the point at the state has its audit office, headed by the Controller and Auditor General. Since the role of internal auditors is to advice the management on what there is in a company, a department or agency, not being excessively frank or being ‘part of a team’ is not dereliction of duty on their part. They are supposed to help those who employ them, hence they take corporate interest as essential to own work.

How far internal auditors need to be independent can only relate to the systems in which they work, and to an extent they will take signals from the very same employers as to what they need, expect or are supposed to do. It isn’t different from external auditors as they have a mandate to check the entity’s standing as a whole and principally in relation to compliance with regulations in one or other regard. Listening to discussion relating to annual reports of the CAG, it is not evident that internal auditors are accountable for what happens. Nor do district directors explain their failure or dereliction of duty from what internal auditors do. When cash is diverted at points of sale, do internal auditors sound the alarm?

The remarks by the VP suggest that this is precisely what ought to be done, which raises the issue of whether key accounting officers need that advice or it is evident that whoever the auditor is advising, he or she seems to be at peace with this or that observation. An internal auditor can’t change the way the entity works but only helps to dust the files and give the right picture of where it stands on revenues and liabilities. Like everyone else they are protected by law, and that includes their contract of work; getting rid of an internal auditor for an act of interference is virtually to signal that there is wrongdoing. Is that adequate?