It’s not (just) about independence
The IIA recently released a paper on this IPPF on independence and objectivity. Independence is sometimes used by internal auditors or organizations executing the internal audit function as an argument to motivate a distance from the organization they’re auditing. And while independence is an important factor to ensure the objectivity the internal auditor needs to maintain in his or her work, it is a means to an end. And the means can result in the end not being met, especially if the internal auditor is too separated from the organizations he’s auditing.
Learn the specifics
Internal audit occurs in a sector. Its findings will be significantly influenced by which sector it operates in. Practices are not similar everywhere. And to be relevant as internal auditor, you really need to understand the specifics of the sector you are working in. An external internal auditor, an outsourced internal auditor or an internal auditor too separate from the operational reality has a significantly higher threshold to cross to gain that level of understanding.
Gain the trust of your auditees
In addition, it’s about trust from the people you are auditing. While it may seem bizarre because of the role of the auditor, the more trust an auditee can put in the contextual competence of his auditor, the more relevant the findings and recommendations will be.
Be close to your auditees and their issues
Now, to become trustworthy to an auditee, as an internal auditor you really need to care about the organization you are working for and the sector they’re operating in. One way to prove your relevance is by making recommendations that matter. But how do you make sure your recommendations will be relevant? In order to be able to do that, you need to learn, and listen, and be interested. Be present, in proximity. That’s not counter to independence. That’s necessity.