Grant Thornton's Oupa Mbokodo: Internal auditors must stop policing organisations

During CFO South Africa’s Finance Indaba Africa held at the Sandton Convention Centre on 13 and 14 October 2016, Head of the Advisory IT at Grant Thornton, Oupa Mbokodo warned internal auditors about playing a policing role in an organisation and encouraged them to employ a more integrated thinking approach to their audits.

By Tiisetso Tlelima

"Auditors need to be holistic and look at the bigger picture instead of always telling people they were supposed to do this and they didn't. They need to start asking questions such as how we got here. More often than not problems that arise are not an event but rather something that has been brewing. Have a look at that process."

According to Oupa, auditors should move beyond compliance and be more pragmatic. They should move out of their comfort zones which is very structured and be more insightful, proactive and future focused. They need to be agents of positive change and strategic. This means that internal auditors need to be part of the exco meetings which will give them the opportunity to influence company decisions and come up with solutions that will keep the company afloat.

  • The session was facilitated by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA SA)

"In the past, auditors focused too much on risk. They're very good at coming up with problems and not solutions and even then the things they refer to as high risk areas are not properly assessed," Oupa said.

In order for auditors to become more effective in their work, Oupa reckons that they need to have a more integrated thinking approach.

So what does integrated thinking mean?

Oupa explained it simply as taking everything into consideration when making business decisions, meaning considering all the relationships between various operating and functional units of an organisation whether it is financial or non-financial. Companies tend to focus too much on the financial aspect forgetting that there are other factors that are more damaging than financial loss.

Internal auditors have to drive a more sustainable and valuable business, and be cognisant of both internal and external factors that could affect a business. This would require liaising with different stakeholders and people from different departments and ensuring that people no longer work in silos but adopt a more inclusive approach to running the business.

The benefit of integrated thinking is that a company will have better risk management and governance systems in place, and make better decisions. In addition, it helps an organisation recognise all that is necessary for its long term viability and ultimate survival.

"Auditing around a computer is outdated. Take a seat at the strategy table and have different types of conversation," advised Oupa.