Central government - sector challenges series

The first in a fortnightly series of guest blog posts focusing on sector specific challenges from an internal audit perspective.

Take a look through the lens of central government.

​​Guest blog post by Jo Rowley – Deputy Director – Audit Practice, GIAA

While its origins are debatable, the phrase "may you live in interesting times" is generally taken to be a curse. But for me, it’s the interesting times that make internal audit, well… interesting.

No one could dispute that the past year delivered interesting to us in spades. We’ve seen colleagues volunteer to work on the COVID-19 response in customer departments, use new (to us) technology to audit remotely, switch to providing mainly real-time assurance at the height of the pandemic and support each other in a sustained focus on workplace wellbeing. We will take these learnings to use in future years.

So, what challenges does 2021 present as auditors in central government?

We’ll see significant new areas of coverage for us as auditors in the next few years.

Immense variety is part of the job of auditing in government. In addition to business as usual, there’ll be huge new areas to audit coming out of the pandemic and EU exit, plus policies such as Build Back Better and Levelling Up. We’ll see new approaches to what and how we audit.

Many areas of government changed their approach to governance, control and risk, when responding to the pandemic. Customers appreciated receiving real-time assurance from us. Not everything will revert to the way it was before, and we’ll need to adapt to this. We’ll be undertaking work for new customers.

We’re seeing an emphasis on providing more cross-government assurance, not just for individual government departments. This means looking across departmental boundaries and often working with other assurance providers to share common insights and emerging themes that will really help drive improvements in delivery and outcomes.

We’ll have new ways of working and new locations to do it from.

Several departments are developing new locations beyond Westminster – where the customer goes, internal auditors invariably follow. Paradoxically, we won’t all be in the office all of the time; flexible working has become an expectation.

Above all, we’ll continue to see internal auditors living out the dual missions of the profession and public service by adding value, providing assurance, advice and insight through their flexibility, versatility and resilience.

Click here for more about the Government Internal Audit Agency.

Watch out for our next blog post in this series, this time on the construction industry. Coming the w/c 19 April. 

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Content reviewed: 18 May 2021