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Internal Auditors Rate Competencies

Practitioners give themselves high marks on ethics, but lag in technical skills

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. (Dec. 21, 2015) – Internal auditors are secure in their grasp of professional ethics, and their abilities as communicators, persuaders, and collaborators, according to the latest CBOK report from The Institute of Internal Auditors Research Foundation.

But the report, Mapping Your Career, Competencies Necessary for Internal Audit Excellence, also finds survey respondents from all parts of the globe are least confident in their knowledge of The IIA’s International Professional Practices Framework (IPPF), and other technical skills.

“In light of the number of high-profile corporate scandals around the globe in the past year, such as FIFA, Toshiba and VW, it is heartening to see that internal auditors rate themselves highest in professional ethics,” said IIA Global Board Chairman Larry Harrington, CIA, QIAL, CRMA. “However, having important competencies related to technical skills rate at the bottom is surprising and somewhat alarming. Internal audit practitioners individually must invest in themselves and take steps to improve those competencies.”

Part of the Common Body of Knowledge (CBOK) 2015 global practitioner survey looked at how internal auditors worldwide rated themselves against The IIA’s Global Internal Audit Competency Framework. The framework, created in 2013, identifies 10 core competencies necessary for internal audit excellence. The framework divides those competencies into four categories that build on each other beginning with foundational skills, then technical expertise, personal skills, and internal audit delivery.

The good news is that one of the foundational elements, professional ethics, ranked highest globally in the competency self-assessment. However, the three elements in the next level in the competency framework, technical expertise, ranked at the bottom of the list.

Those three elements — knowledge of the IPPF, business acumen, and knowledge of governance, risk, and control — are “core to the sound execution of the profession’s obligations,” according to the report’s author James Rose, CIA, CRMA, CPA, CISA.

“These results clearly present an area of relative weakness that should be the focus of development efforts,” according to the report.

After professional ethics, communications, persuasion and collaboration, internal audit delivery, and critical thinking rounded out the top five competencies. They were followed by internal audit management, and improvement and innovation. The aforementioned three technical skills round out the list, with knowledge of the IPPF rating lowest.

IIA leaders, as well as several chief audit executives (CAEs) quoted in the report, suggest practitioners may not realize their day-to-day work habits and practices are grounded in the IPPF, suggesting that the competency rating is artificially skewed downward as a result.

“Whether practitioners realize it or not, the professional standards promulgated by The IIA are at the heart of every well-executed internal audit,” said IIA President and CEO Richard F. Chambers, CIA, QIAL, CGAP, CCSA, CRMA. “Indeed, most charters and operating manuals that guide internal audit functions around the world are built upon the foundation of the IPPF."

The rankings were relatively consistent around the globe, with some exceptions. For example, internal audit management, improvement and innovation, and business acumen rated higher than critical thinking among practitioners in Sub-Saharan Africa. In South Asia, professional ethics rated fourth behind communication, persuasion and collaboration, and internal audit delivery.

In addition to analysis of the overall responses, the report also compares how internal auditors rate their competencies based on region, years of experience, age, gender, certifications earned, and staff rank. The report, which includes a form for conducting a core competency self-assessment, closes with a section that offers strategies on strengthening weaker competencies.

The report bases its findings on the CBOK 2015 Global Practitioners Survey, which drew more than 14,500 respondents from 166 countries earlier this year. The survey is part of the CBOK study, the largest ongoing study of internal audit practitioners and their stakeholders.

The report is the latest in a series being produced by the IIARF based on CBOK data. More than two dozen reports are planned through July 2016. It and other CBOK reports can be downloaded for free at the CBOK Resource exchange at www.theiia.org/goto/CBOK.