Public sector organizations face a variety of risks, ranging from cyber threats to budget constraints to compliance concerns. While internal audit teams in the government sector might not be responsible for solving all those risks, they need to make sure that they are following through with relevant risk management protocols.
Therefore, it is essential that internal audit teams are conducting internal audit risk assessments to figure out what these risks look like.
“Risk-based auditing ensures that the internal audit activity is focusing its efforts on providing assurance and advisory services related to the organization’s top risks… This requires internal auditors to have a working knowledge of basic concepts, frameworks, tools, and techniques related to risk and risk management,” explains the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA).
In this article, we’ll examine five tips to help public sector internal auditors build better risk-based audit plans. These include:
1) Define your goals
Before you get too bogged down in the specifics of running an internal audit risk assessment, take a step back and consider what you’re trying to accomplish. Doing so includes finding internal alignment within your audit team and with other stakeholders.
As Baker Tilly advises, internal audit teams “should meet with the various stakeholder groups – management, the audit committee, and the governing body – to explain the process, set expectations for the results and listen to any desired outcomes, as a means of adapting the approach or identifying other activities where internal audit can add value.”
2) Organize your data
Conducting an internal audit risk assessment also requires strong data practices. But before you can get to a place where you are using data analytics to identify key risks, public sector organizations often need to organize their data first.
Information might be held in a variety of systems that makes analysis inefficient, if not ineffective. Tools like TeamMate+ use a data exchange API framework to pull together data from different sources, such as governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) systems and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, giving you a complete picture of what’s happening within your organization.
3) Get agile
If you go through an entire risk-based audit without getting any feedback along the way, then it’s easy to get off track. For one, risks might have changed from the time the audit started to when it eventually wraps up. And when you present to stakeholder leaders at the end of the risk assessment, it can be tough to then incorporate their feedback into your internal controls and assurance processes.
Engaging in agile auditing can help. By breaking an internal audit risk assessment down into more manageable chunks — where different risk areas go from the planning to presentation stages in short sprints — public sector internal auditors may have an easier time adapting to change and incorporating feedback.
4) Go dynamic
Agile auditing creates a dynamic internal audit risk assessment. Instead of approaching these assessments as an annual occurrence, you can review public sector risks on more of an ongoing basis.
That means collaborating with other departments throughout the year to keep up with emerging risks, which is where good data-sharing practices also come in handy. Dynamic or continuous risk assessments can also result in more frequent reporting so that you can keep everyone in the loop and get their timely feedback. Having a strong internal audit risk assessment tool like TeamMate that can help you simplify risk scoring and create efficient audit reports makes a big difference.
5) Keep up with public sector requirements
Lastly, working in internal audit in the government sector means staying on top of general risks like cybersecurity and financial concerns, along with meeting specific public policy guidelines and regulations. Public sector internal auditors often turn to sources like Wolters Kluwer, which provides resources like webinars and other Expert Insights so you can learn what you need to do to strengthen internal audit as a government organization.
Following these five tips can go a long way toward creating a strong internal audit risk assessment and a better audit process overall. Even if it seems like your organization doesn’t face many risks, conducting a risk-based audit can help you stay on top of any changes to your risk level. Rather than being caught off guard, building a reliable internal audit risk assessment plan can help your organization control risk, however that takes shape.