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Local Authority Internal Audit Virtual Forum

21 June 2023

Please note:

  • All Institute responses are boxed and highlighted blue
  • Where the chair comments in that capacity this box is highlighted in yellow
  • For confidentiality, the identities of all delegates/attendees are anonymised

Institute welcome | Anne Kiem, CEO, Chartered IIA UK and Ireland

Trusted advisors are the people that are turned to in times of crisis, change or when important decisions need to be made for good, honest advice – knowledgeable, reliable, reputable, credible, and dependable. Internal auditors can be a good sounding board. Being recognised as a trusted advisor doesn’t happen overnight, it results from nurturing relationships, being relevant, providing insight and increasing efficiency. A unique partnership focused on organisational success can be achieved with the right behaviours from internal audit and a positive tone from the top.


Chair opening comments | Piyush Fatania, Head of Audit, Risk, Assurance and Insurance at Gloucestershire County Council and Chartered IIA Council member

Stakeholders are looking for greater insight. Internal audit is moving from standard operational and financial audits to those involving strategy, risk management effectiveness, value for money and governance. The qualities that are essential to being a trusted advisor are aligned to objectivity, independence and integrity which builds management confidence in internal audit. At what point though do we stop before we become so ingrained in activities that we lose objectivity?

Our speaker today is Richard Chambers, global advocate for internal audit, sharing thoughts on being a trusted advisor.

 Trusted advisors - click here for presentation slides

  • Advisory engagements are not sufficient to be trusted advisors.
  • Internal auditors need to think differently about trust.
    • Trust must work both ways.
    • It’s about attributes not the nature of engagements.
    • It’s about being sought out for advice.
    • HIA’s need to cultivate a culture of trust throughout the function.
    • Reward behaviour that leads to trust.
    • Nurture, coach and support internal auditors to be trusted advisors.

                  trusted advisors are nurtured not born

  • This proverbial seat at the top table is gained through 9 attributes:

Personal attributes

  • Ethical resilience – resist pressure, having integrity and courage.
  • Results focused – being obsessive about making a difference.
  • Intellectually curious – able to ask incisive questions.
  • Open-minded – need to look at all options and pathways.

Relationship attributes

  • Dynamic communicators – able to read the room, listen and articulate messages.

         admittedly much harder to do in the virtual environment

  • Insightful relationships – built on mutual respect navigating difficult conversations.
  • Inspirational leaders – ability to influence direction and outcomes.

       being able to navigate difficult conversations without fracturing the relationship

Professional attributes

  • Critical thinkers – number one attribute that HIAs recruit.
  • Technical expertise – combination of industry, organisation as well as profession.


Chair closing comments

We need to be trusted, even when we are delivering a message that our stakeholders don’t want to hear. Having empathy is important. We are advisors but it is those that we are advising who add the word trusted.


Institute close | Liz Sandwith, Chief Professional Practices Advisor, Chartered IIA

Our next session is 26 July 2023 where we will be joined by the local government association to talk about initiatives for developing our local authority audit committees.

Dates for your diary 

  • 7 July: Midlands Conference - Birmingham
  • 3-4 October: Internal Audit Annual Conference – London/digital
  • 2-3 November: Scotland Conference – Edinburgh

        Click here to book all events

A spin-off Data Analytics for Local Authorities forum has been set up to address the specific needs of your sector. If you are interested in joining, please email

 Chat Questions and Comments

Answers from speaker, anonymised comments from attendees

Question | You mentioned ethical resilience, our elected officials can be challenging in their decision-making, sometimes not listening to internal or external audit due to political agendas. How can internal audit improve their resilience?

Response | There are politics in all organisations but with a capital P in public sector. It is a different challenge. Politicians are good at political risk management but that doesn’t always align with the risks that the organisation needs to manage. Internal auditors must have the courage to stay true north from an ethical perspective and say what needs to be said.

Question | I forget who originally said it, but it has stuck with me when it was said that the CIA should be the "conscience" of the Chief Executive. It fits nicely with the theme of trusted advisor. Do you agree?

Response | Of the organisation, yes. Our actions should inspire others to give us that tag.

Question | Trusted advisor doesn’t come with the job, is it like respect and must be earned?

Response | Yes, trusted advisor is a term we earn, not one we flaunt, individuals develop trust and respect which provides the foundation for being able to give advice that is sought out. Unsolicited advice is rarely acted upon.

Question | What can we do if we are not trusted by our organisation?

Response | Look for path of least resistance. Focus on what the ‘anti-auditor’ cares about, make a difference to them personally, chip away, win them over by demonstrating the value of internal audit in a way that matters. It’s not about telling them what they want to hear as you won’t be doing your job if you do that.

Question | I like the idea that internal audit should be focussed on the results of the work in terms of benefit for the organisation but most of us will have key performance indicators relating to the number of audits completed etc. Do you have any advice as to how we communicate the value that we add to audit committees?

Response | Great point. As internal auditors our objectivity can get in the way – the need to evidence - but what we say doesn’t always have to be auditable – we need to inspire and motivate. But it needs to be credible. Internal audit should not focus only on outputs. It’s about outcomes. We need to have conversations about the difference we are making.

Comment | perhaps it's time to question the value of some of those KPIs.

Comment | I have argued against KPIs, and we no longer have them. Quantity is no indicator of quality.

Comment | If one critical piece of work means the audit plan need to be put to one side to focus on that then just explain that. PIs are useful in their place, but numbers alone don't tell the full picture. You could deliver the full audit plan but if they were all poor-quality audits focused on the wrong areas it is no use to the organisation.

Comment | I'm turning things on its head for 23/24 and have removed most indicators. Also removed time recording processes as it’s an admin overhead that we just don't need and adds no value. Seeking more feedback from services, quality of our relationship with them, how we've helped them achieve their objectives etc is more my focus.

Question | Are you a fan of KPIs?

Response | More of a fan of KOIs – key outcome indicators. Too often as internal auditors we value and measure things that are not meaningful to the organisation. We need to translate what we do. Productivity is important but it’s not as impactful as highlighting outcomes and results. What is the real difference internal audit has made to the organisation?

Comment | I am delivering a challenging audit opinion on Monday at our audit committee. It has been through our corporate management team, and we have already started getting requests from corporate directors for certain pieces of work. So, I have seen this as part of the journey of becoming a trusted advisor. Also had our Elected Member Portfolio Holder asking me to slot in monthly meetings with him.