UK public sector internal audit standards

Comments from ACCA to the Internal Audit Standards Advisory Board, September 2012.

ACCA welcomes the opportunity to comment on the development of internal audit standards for the UK public sector.  

ACCA is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. We support our 154,000 members and 432,000 students throughout their careers, providing services in a 170 countries. A significant proportion of our members work within public sector and therefore this consultation is highly relevant to them.

We are disappointed that we were not consulted at an earlier stage on the development of sector specific internal audit standards for the UK public sector, firstly, because a number of our members work as internal auditors in public services and will be directly affected by this development.  It will inevitably impact on how they conduct their work in the future.  Secondly, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with IIA that sets out a process of mutual co-operation on developments affecting ACCA/IIA members and this is clearly an area where we have a mutual interest. 

We understand that this development has come about as a result of a highly critical review conducted by the NAO in June 2012. Whilst we support the NAO’s findings about the quality of internal audit across central government and the need to improve, we are of the view that the focus should be on building professionalism and expertise rather than developing sector specific standards.  In the area of skills development we are willing to work with both the working party and public bodies.  

We believe that any further investment should be directed towards improving areas, such as the relationship between internal management at the executive and non-executive levels and supporting internal audit through investment in appropriate professional development. We would also like to emphasise that training and support for internal auditors should not just be technical, but should take account of the need to develop strong inter personal and communication skills as well.

We are highly supportive of a set of consistent and high quality internal auditing standards for all sectors and want to get away from sector introspection towards the application of robust general approaches. We know, for example, that IIAs are capable of being successfully applied in sectors other than the private sector, such as the university sector. We believe that if there are perceived gaps and peculiarities these should be addressed through existing IIA standards rather than designing specific standards.