Communication is key for ACCA’s own internal audit team as it seeks to build organisational-wide engagement.
Internal audit within ACCA in recent years has expanded the number of channels by which we communicate and the frequency of communication within these channels in an attempt to build organisational-wide engagement with internal controls and internal audit and ultimately to deliver improved outcomes for ACCA. We are now delivering our messages within ACCA more and more outside of the traditional reporting methods.
The initial driver for us to change the way we communicate with the organisation was driven by the adoption by ACCA of a social media style intranet. Auditors being auditors we did initially see the potential for the compliance environment to be weakened through a more casual style of communication; we worried that policies could become less co-ordinated and prevalent and less important in the new ubiquitous and more informal style of communication.
However, it was important that we engaged with the new intranet early on during the development phase to ensure involvement in the development of the policy and compliance sections of the intranet and to ensure we were optimising how our own messages could be delivered.
Regular communications Following the roll-out of the new intranet we now have a well-established regular programme of communications, in addition to establishing a programme of communications through the intranet; all members of the team regularly attend at key management meetings and forums across the organisation including attendance at departmental meetings to discuss upcoming audits and internal control themes identified within recent audits. We are also currently in the process of establishing delivery of internal control messages and training through the central learning and development programme for staff and managers.
For 2016-17 we have kicked off the year by communicating a fairly straightforward item in the form of the internal audit plan for the year ahead; we promoted the plan page so that it trended on the intranet in order to attract further attention for the plan.
More engaging In addition for the start of the financial year, we also wanted to deliver a communication with a less functional style which will hopefully be more engaging for staff; for this communication we will be delivering a message which will be aligned with the end of year report to the audit committee. By communicating to the organisation the percentage of positive and negative assurance ratings along with themes and trends for controls improvement, we are hoping that management at ACCA will accept the challenge to improve on the 2015-16 audit outcomes. Our plan of communications for 2016-17 is aligned with key organisational, governance and internal audit events in order to make the communications as topical and engaging as possible.
Our plan for 2016-17 includes days specifically to promote and undertake workshops on internal controls to facilitate the self-assessment and improved documentation of internal controls across ACCA.
Our establishment of annual communications plans allows us to deliver regular communications in a manner which is not overly resource intensive for us. The aim of the plan is to build interest in internal controls and internal audit, while signposting avenues of engagement available to the organisation outside the audit process.
We want management to see the value of investing time and resource in their internal controls by reiterating their important part in the delivery of the overall ACCA strategy. Ultimately our aim is for internal controls and risk management to become part of the language of how things get done and become an important part of ACCA’s working culture.
Corporate culture When considering delivery of effective communications we feel it is important that internal audit influences the departments that set ACCA’s corporate culture and this forms an important part of our communication plan. Our plan therefore includes activities to work closely with the departments that most influence ACCA strategy and culture such as our strategy development, human resources, talent and organisational capability and investment teams that collectively drive the strategy, delivery plans, policy and learning environment of ACCA.
Assumptions In considering how we can add value to ACCA outside of audits we do not make the following assumptions:
staff are aware of what an internal control is, the importance of internal controls and how internal controls should be formalised
staff know on what basis we score our audits and how they can achieve a positive assurance rating
staff know what audits are taking place during the year and on what basis we have selected our audits
staff are aware that ACCA has an assurance map and that they have a part to play in ensuring that the assurance map is effective
other assurance providers are aware of audit outcomes, for example, we do not want risk to reduce risk scores based on controls that are not effective
ACCA at large knows uniformly how internal audit is delivering value; this could be departmental outcomes and audit opinions.
By explicitly dedicating internal audit resource to these activities outside of auditing we feel that there are benefits not only to the organisation, but also to the internal audit department itself as internal auditors further develop their skill-set, obtain further insights into the organisation, build relationships and further their career.