The most effective internal auditors are those with enough fortitude to blow the whistle before trouble ensues. They see troubling issues in the formation stage, raise a concern, and take a stand to ensure things are done right.
But, as I discovered years ago, there has to be a high degree of trust between internal auditors and those whom they are cautioning about pending wrongdoing or calamity. Without trust as a basis for engagement, the conversation can become awkward or even polarizing.
Ethics is an area that plays a significant role in my view of outstanding internal audit performance; so much so that I decided to feature ethical resilience as my first area of focus. I’ve been known to characterize ethics as “table stakes” for those wishing to engage in internal auditing. It’s a strong statement, but I stand by it. Internal auditors can’t accomplish their mission without a diligent, unceasing commitment to ethical behavior.
Richard Chambers outlines an auditor’s need to demonstrate and commit to ethical behavior in this post.
A commitment to ethical behaviors means committing to integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness. Auditors can be flexible around the scope of work done, are willing to engage in continuous learning and professional improvement, but must be able to support, stand behind, and be accountable for the work that they do. At times, that may require a degree of courage. But we as auditors must behave ethically if we are to be trusted, and we must ask the same of others.