Professionalism apparent from South African internal audit functions’ use of the Standards

11 Nov 2013

When stakeholders perceive that members of a profession do not live up to their professional obligations, the profession loses prestige. Professions use various measures, including professional standards, disciplinary processes and dedicated quality assurance standards to remain relevant to their clients and to the greater business community. The internal audit profession often expresses a desire to improve its standing as a profession. This paper asserts that members’ compliance with professional standards, including those on quality assurance, impacts on the internal audit profession’s standing. Firstly, this paper provides a theoretical overview of the link between professional standards and professionalisation, and secondly, describes aspects of the current use of professional standards by South African internal audit functions. The data used was collected by the Institute of Internal Auditors Research Foundation as part of its 2010 Common Body of Knowledge study. A large percentage of South African chief audit executives responded, reporting that their internal audit functions did not comply fully with professional standards, while of those who did report full compliance, only a minority reported having implemented a quality assurance and improvement programme, and only a small number reported having had external quality assurance reviews. This paper contributes to corporate governance literature in a developing country setting and it provides insights into possible reasons why the internal audit profession’s quest for professionalisation remains a challenge.