Categories
Auditing

Survey says: IA feeling the squeeze

A survey conducted at the recent Institute of Internal Auditors annual conference by Protiviti has revealed that ⅔ of IA professionals believe their department is under-resourced and therefore unable to adequately carry out their duties.

Protiviti’s take is that due to increased expectations of the assurance Internal Audit can provide on an ever-widening spectrum of enterprise risks, auditors feel under-resourced. Sukhdev Bal, Director of Protiviti says:

This survey is a clear indication that internal auditors themselves believe that prior to the recession, they were not fit for purpose in terms of focus, skills and capabilities. Audit committees, Internal Audit leaders and management need to work more closely and collectively to agree the role of audit, objectives, criteria for audit and the overall approach of the internal audit function required to meet current and future evolving needs. Importantly, having agreed these, they need to ensure that the function is staffed with the right skills, capabilities and experience to meet these objectives.

There is evidence that spending on governance, risk and compliance didn’t decrease in 2009 compared to 2008, so I think Protiviti is correct with its assessment. IA is being asked to expand their risk coverage beyond traditional areas of expertise. It’s only natural to feel a little overwhelmed by the expectations. The key to adapting in my opinion (and experience) will be support for training in non-traditional areas.

The survey is available on Protiviti’s website (if you give them some personal information first).

Categories
Technology

Payroll system conversion horror story

Converting their payroll system has resulted in some serious errors to the tune of greater than $1.5 million for the Fort Worth (Texas) school district.

The school district overpaid employees and former employees at least $1.54 million, according to the [internal] audit. It also found that the district’s payroll system lacked proper controls, was cumbersome and inconsistent, and included manual paper entries that led to human error.

Aside from the poor conversion, it doesn’t sound like the new system is all that great if it requires manual entries. I’m assuming the entries are needed because the payroll system doesn’t interface with their general ledger system. Additional review controls over the process between systems is required in that case.

Some trustees are seeking an independent audit of the problems to get more assurance that fraud wasn’t a factor and that all the issues have been resolved.

[Trustee Christene] Moss said she wasn’t comfortable with parts of the report in which the [internal] auditors could not determine why various issues happened.

Yeah, I’d be concerned about that too! As well, the auditors aren’t certain that all the overpayments have been identified and fixed. I think these are the main reasons why an independent audit is needed. The situation calls for a specific engagement looking at the system conversion process and subsequent issues.

Board President Ray Dickerson reiterated that he didn’t think there was a need for a costly external audit. He said controls will be put in place.

[…]

Dickerson said the problems that were found are typical in such a transition.

“No matter how well you plan and train, once you flip that switch, you’re going to find things you didn’t know,” he said.

Uh, not really dude! And certainly not $1.5 million worth of “things you didn’t know” (on a monthly average payroll of $41 million)!

As a not inconsequential footnote, the conversion to a new system was required because the old system’s vendor was no longer going to be supporting it. A quick search for “open source payroll software” turns up many options which will prevent vendor lock-in in the future.

Update: Another story, this one in the Fort Worth Weekly, has more details about the internal audit’s findings and the attempts by the district to have some former employees repay the erroneous amounts.

Categories
Governance

Internal audit at Satyam

New charges in the Satyam scandal were laid by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, for “creating fake invoices to inflate revenues by US$94 million and forging company board resolutions to obtain unauthorised loans worth US$265 million” according to this story in Accountancy Age.

This comes after charges were laid on November 21 against the former Head of Internal Audit, VS Prabhakar Gupta, for the company, for “willful suppression of auditing irregularities.”

A lot of coverage in the blogs (primarily Dennis’ and Francine’s) thus far has focused on the role the external auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers played in the fraud, but Internal Audit arguably should’ve been better able to root out the fraud due to its closer familiarity with business processes.

It’s difficult to detect fraud in the best of circumstances, but when the charges involve suppression of irregularities discovered by internal audit, questions will be raised (and arrests made).

DNA (Daily News & Analysis), an Indian English language newspaper, provided additional detail on the arrest of the former Head of IA:

While the spokesman refused to divulge any further information about Gupta, sources in the agency claimed that the auditor had helped in falsifying accounts including inflating the overseas employees pay bill.

On top of this, the Internal Audit department received the Recognition of Commitment from the Institute of Internal Auditors in 2005, which according to the IIA was “available to all internal audit activities that submitted an application fee and met specific criteria in the areas of quality, outreach and professionalism, based on a point system.” The program was discontinued in 2006.

On the occasion, the now former Head of IA had this to say:

We are extremely happy with the recognition that our Internal Audit team has received on an international platform. Satyam is one of only 26 internal audit departments worldwide receiving this award in 2005 and it reinforces our commitment to meet the international standards in the concepts and approaches to audit function contributing to better corporate governance.

Satyam is now commonly referred to as India’s Enron.

Categories
Auditing

Dueling perspectives on internal audit

A guest post by an intern in Internal Audit was recently featured on another accountant’s blog, I Want To Be A CA, and I was first alerted to it by Krupo’s post title bait. The post is not complimentary about internal audit, but the support for its thesis is so flimsy and based on purely anecdotal evidence that it’s impossible to take it seriously. It begins:

I work in internal audit of a large corporation in the Southwestern United States. That’s all I will reveal of my identity for obvious reasons.

The “obvious reasons” are that he’s about to trash every element of this opportunity he’s been given to work at a large corporation in the Southwest US (during a massive recession when people much more experienced than him are losing their jobs, and in one of the hardest hit parts of the country to boot) despite having only two years of university level accounting studies to his credit.

I’m reminded of a recent column by Maureen Dowd on the use of anonymity online:

In this infinite realm of truth-telling, many want to hide. Who are these people prepared to tell you what they think, but not who they are? … Pseudonyms have a noble history… But on the Internet, it’s often less about being constructive and more about being cowardly.

One of the best uses for constructive anonymity is that of the whistleblower. Most companies have set up whistleblower channels by now which allow employees at all levels to safely make public or report to an independent body abuses they have observed at work. The post in question is not an example of constructive anonymity.

With that out of the way:

So you ask yourself, why go into internal audit? Well I’ve been asking myself the same question. I’ve been here almost three months and still have yet to see any meaningfulness in this work. … Granted, without this deterrent could be rampant fraud and waste, etc, but that’s beside the point.

I thought the point was that audit is meaningless. So, factors which make audit worthwhile are beside it? I guess if you ignore the potential for rampant fraud and waste, the job would be basically meaningless. I think it’s safe to assume he’s been so busy mindlessly ticking and tying his POs that he wouldn’t see an opportunity to address waste or fraud if it presented itself.

And with that, I’m reminded of a recent post by Penelope Trunk on creativity:

It’s as misguided to divide the world into creative and non-creative jobs as it is to divide the world into creative and non-creative people. All jobs have opportunities for creativity. Some have more and some have less, but you usually get more opportunities to be creative by demonstrating that you are a creative problem solver over and over again.

IA jobs can be rewarding and meaningful, but oftentimes only as much as you make them. The key point is that the onus is on you to push your job into creative territory. Not at the expense of your required duties, but going above and beyond what’s expected of you. You have to want to make the work meaningful and strive to do so. Especially in an entry-level internship, as this is a great opportunity to show your superiors that you’re a top performer. If you ruffle too many feathers (and the problem here may indeed be the work environment he’s found himself in), you’re back in school before you know it anyway for third year.

Continuing on:

The thing you have to keep in mind with internal audit is that you are working with the same documents, same departments, and same procedures year after year with the rare addition or removal of a department.

This really depends on the type of organization you’re working for. There are companies that own various subsidiaries in related industries that will provide variety. I know in my position I see many different types of businesses that fall under the broad building materials category, including heavy industry, manufacturing and pure distribution/wholesale. Newly acquired companies are a source of variety as well, and there is a smorgasbord of accounting systems in use providing challenge and an opportunity to learn and develop.

Oh, and the other thing about internal audit is you don’t get to travel nearly as much as external auditors, because everything you’re auditing is in the same building. The hours are also a lot more manageable. Nobody here goes over 40 hours a week.

Again, depends on the company. I left public accounting because my current position offered the chance to travel extensively. Since starting the job last May, I’ve worked in Switzerland, Ireland, the US, and Canada. The lion’s share of traveling for me is to the US. I just got back from Phoenix (third time this year), and before that spent three weeks in the Seattle-Tacoma area. (Gorgeous country!)

As far as the hours go, when I’m back in town (which I am for the next three weeks!) it’s pretty accurate to say we work a solid 40 hours only. On weeks where I’m on the road, the days are longer (10 hours usually) and Monday mornings are brutal. Think getting up at 3:30am EDT for a flight and working till 6pm Pacific! The bottom line is that the work that needs to get done, gets done on time no matter how long it takes, and this is generally true no matter where you work.

If you don’t have much of an imagination, enjoy working by yourself a lot, don’t mind monotonous work, have attention to detail, enjoys following instructions, don’t mind doing work that seems pointless (in your mind), and wants a steady paycheck, then I’d say auditing is for you.

Yeah this pretty much sums up the whole snarky episode. I see the proposition of IA a bit differently:

If you have a creative mind, enjoy working in small groups and meeting tons of new people every week, love challenging work, can both devise and follow instructions (and occasionally throw them out the window), don’t mind work that is critically important to the continued growth of your organization, and want a healthy and steady paycheck, good benefits and job security, then I’d say auditing is for you.

Auditing 101: Never extrapolate from a sample of one across a large, heterogeneous population.

Categories
Governance

IIA: Keep internal and external audit separate

AccountancyAge is reporting that the UK and Ireland IIA’s chief executive Ian Peters recently made a statement on the contentious issue of having external auditors provide internal audit services:

Internal auditors answer to management and the non-executive directors… external audit reports to shareholders. Merging these two important functions has the potential to cause serious conflicts of interest and reduce the effectiveness of internal controls and the management of risk.

The statement was made in relation to the KPMG-Rentokil deal.

I think if the two parties gave us more details about the work performed around independence it was assuage many of the fears stakeholders are having.

KPMG has said they believe the provision of both functions “is perfectly feasible to do in the spirit and letter of the law.” If that’s so, how long before more of these arrangements are made by KPMG or other firms?