Why Internal Auditors Might Ask You Questions

If you meet an internal auditor, you will probably find him or her to be inquisitive. This makes sense because internal auditors ask a lot of questions in their day-to-day work. They look into other people’s business looking for potential and actual .

One of the primary ways internal auditors gather information is by asking questions. Sure, they can look at the laws, policies and procedures that govern a particular part of the organization, but to know what really happens, they need to talk to the people doing the work. Even managers overseeing processes can think things are happening a certain way when they are actually very different with workarounds, shortcuts and unnecessary redundancies.

Internal auditors asks questions throughout an audit. Here are five reasons they might come to you.

They’re conducting their annual risk assessment.

two businessmen talking
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Internal auditors want to spend their time wisely. One of the best ways they can do this is by focusing their efforts on the audit projects with the most risk. Internal audit shops conduct annual risk assessments to help them figure out what to do over the coming year.

Risk can be a tough word to define because it doesn’t always have the same meaning. The simple way to think about risk is the chance something bad will happen. The most common risks in government audits are financial risk and the risk of negative media attention.

Risk assessment processes gauge how likely the risk is to come to fruition and what the impact of that event will be. Internal auditors also take into account positive risks, but those are more difficult to identify and measure than negative risks.

Many internal audit shops use surveys and interviews to help identify and measure risks. If internal auditors ask you about risks in your area of the organization, they do this so they can know if spending their time studying your area is worth their while in the near future.

They want to know about your job duties.

Once internal auditors have picked their projects for the year, then they begin on whichever projects they’ve decided to start first. As they dive deeper into learning about the area they’ve chosen to audit, they talk to people who work in that area. They usually start with managers and then move to the people who perform the daily tasks needed for the work to continue.

Internal auditors certainly review the laws, policies and procedures, but to know what is actually going on, they must talk to the people doing the work. Laws, policies and procedures may say things are done a certain way, but internal auditors compare what the staff say to those documents to verify operations are being done “by the book.”

If they discover discrepancies, they document them in the audit report. Perhaps the documentation needs to change, or maybe the staff need to stick to the authorized ways of doing business. Either way, internal auditors will make recommendations, and management will need to respond to those recommendations.

They want to know how you interact with others in your organization.

No one works in a vacuum. The work you do likely depends on the work of others, and others probably depend on your work to do their jobs.

Internal auditors ask about these interdependencies to see where improvements might be possible. Sometimes processes are as good as they possibly can be; however, many times there is room for improvement.

For example, a jailer cannot take custody of a prisoner until a police officer completes the required paperwork. An internal auditor would look at this process and ask both sides how the transfer really happens. For law enforcement organizations, things probably go down exactly how the policy says it should, but this isn’t always the case.  

They want your opinions.

Once internal auditors ask how things really happen, they want to know how they should happen. They ask people questions to get them to say how operations could be better. They ask questions like the following:

  • What would make your job easier?

  • Are there any barriers that keep you from working efficiently?

  • Are there any unnecessary tasks you do?

People appreciate being asked these sorts of questions. They give people a voice they might not have. If internal auditors ask you questions like this, take advantage of the opportunity to improve your workplace. The improvements won’t come immediately, so you’ll have to be patient and let the audit run its course.

They are investigating alleged fraud, waste or abuse.

Sometimes internal auditors are called into a situation because there has been an allegation of fraud, waste or abuse. If this is the case and you’re questioned, do not attempt to hide anything.

If you’re at fault, admit it. If you know about someone else’s guilt, don’t vouch for them. As you can see in countless political scandal, the coverup is often way worse than the crime.

There is a very real possibility people could be fired. You do not want to do anything to impede the investigation because doing so could get you in trouble even if you had no part in the allegation under investigation.