It’s good for what ails your organization – Canadian Government Executive

NEWS

SEARCH

HR
AccountabilityManagement
July 2, 2014

It’s good for what ails your organization

Carman L. Lapointe is the Under-Secretary-General at the Office of Internal Oversight Services at the United Nations. The Canadian internal auditor served at the Bank of Canada and as corporate auditor for Canada Post, among others. She was the first woman Chairperson of the International Internal Auditors Association. She will be speaking at the 7th Annual National Conference of the Institute of Internal Auditors Canada in October. Editor-in-chief Toby Fyfe began by asking how she convinces public sector executives of the value of internal audit.

 

It’s a very good question, because a lot of it has to do with perspective. When internal audit is delivering, in particular, tough messages, it becomes a threat to management, and that’s the reality of the kind of work we do. There’s an inherent conflict in the news that we are often presenting, particularly if we are developing our audit programs on a risk basis. We’re going after the high-risk areas, and those, by definition, will tend to produce bad news from a management perspective.

It’s easy to say that the best way to sell it is to convince them that we are trying to help, but it is a tough sell, because it ends up being a tool of accountability for, very often, management’s lack of awareness, or sometimes even resources, to actually make sure that the risks are being managed at the appropriate level.

Quite often, it becomes an opportunity to make the case for additional resources, especially when resources are scarce, to outline key risk areas that need more attention. And that’s easier said than done, because we’re all in an atmosphere of scarce resources, and unfortunately, management sometimes decides the best way to manage the risk is to make sure we minimize the resources that are provided to do these types of things.

How do you sell it to them? Hopefully we are at the front end of any particular audit or even the development of an audit plan. Make sure there is ongoing consulting with management to make sure we are hitting on the risks that are meaningful to them and not just to us, as the auditors. Quite frankly, if the risk areas aren’t important to management, they shouldn’t be important to us. It becomes a sales job, to make sure that we are targeting areas where we can add value with internal audit.

Management isn’t really interested in compliance-oriented reports. They are more interested in, “Tell us how we can accomplish these objectives more efficiently and more effectively using fewer resources, because that’s where the rubber hits the road.”

We need to model the behaviour that we expect program managers to have, and most internal audit functions aren’t there yet, in terms of measuring their own efficiency and effectiveness. To me, I think that is the biggest seller, to show that it works for us, to improve our elapsed time and our success in hitting the areas of interest to management. So that’s what we do: we’ve developed these program impact pathways for all three of our functions.

We tend to go in and do compliance-type work, and don’t often enough ask the question: What is the reason for the non-compliance? Is there a problem with the policy or how it’s being interpreted? We do, as internal auditors, have the right to challenge those policies.

Would that imply a different set of competencies?

It really is a different set of skills, because it isn’t something that you learn when you’re learning how to be an internal auditor. It’s judgment, and judgment comes from exposure to many different aspects, and that’s one of the interesting points about internal audit.

The best internal auditors actually are really good managers first. I can take very good program managers and make very effective auditors out of them by adding the internal audit skills and competencies. External auditors want everything to float and balance, and if it can’t be transferred to an impact on the financial statements, they don’t really care about it. And you can totally mismanage an organization and get a clean bill of health from your external auditors as long as you’ve booked the mismanagement correctly.

There’s been a concern that ideology and political imperatives rather than analysis are driving change. Is that a challenge for internal auditors, and how might they respond?

It is a challenge, and it’s not just at the national or provincial level. It’s at the international level as well. It all comes down to politics, and that I’ve learned in spades, with 193 member states, each with one vote on anything. I think where we can add value is to make sure that we don’t wait for a sunset clause evaluation to occur, that we are monitoring the achievement of objectives throughout the life of the program, to hopefully allow a better impact earlier on, so that when they get to the five-year mandate, they can then prove that they are achieving those objectives.

You can’t wait until the game is played and change the rules, but you can change the rules or the measurements throughout the life of that program, if that’s appropriate. If internal audit worked more closely with evaluators to help feed the appropriateness of the measures and the integrity of the data that’s been collected to feed those measurement programs, we could show that these programs are not delivering on a more regular basis, whether or not they’re ideological or actually based on some sort of analysis or need.

In an ideal organization, what is your relationship to the management team? Are you on the management team?

Here, I report directly to the General Assembly for the results of my work, but for administrative purposes, I report to the Secretary General. I have a very good relationship with the Secretary General, and we have agreed that I will participate in all the senior advisors’ meetings, and they happen at least once a week, where everyone at my level is around the table to talk about the key issues of the day.

I’m also an observer on the management committee, where all of the management decisions are made. And on key teams – we are implementing SAP, and IPSASB, which is accrual-based accounting – I am an observer on those steering committees and task forces, and I think that’s absolutely critical. We cannot hold on to our independence to the point where we totally are out of touch with what’s going on in management. Those interactions help me understand where the weak points are, what the various members of the management team are struggling with, and the constraints of the political system as well.

In essence, you’re saying you need to be a senior member of the management team in order to do your business properly.

Yes, exactly. In order to make sure that we are hitting on the risks that are important to management, we need to be in those forums, and that’s a very different approach than my predecessor, who refused to participate in any of those forums and therefore quite clearly was, I think, at high risk of being out of touch with what really matters to the organization.

Would you recommend a career in internal audit?

Absolutely. I got talked into it, initially. Internal auditors can take their skills and apply them in very different environments. The variety of work is just incredible. You’re not doing the same thing day in and day out or month in and month out. There’s always something new.

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Accountability
 
Ships docked in a harbour may not be going anywhere; however,...
 
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in issuing its annual review of...
 
There’s no shortage of organizations claiming to have a digital transformation...
 
Cybersecurity professionals have sounded the alarm for years, and they are...
 
Cost estimation is becoming an extremely important skill within government due...
 
In this special episode of CGE Radio, your host John Jones...
 
Security professionals have an obligation to communicate risks and recommendations to...
 
Risk is always present in any undertaking, no matter the size...
 
Cost overruns have become institutionalized in the federal government, according to...
 
Last year, procurement Minister Jody Foote was prompted by the swirling...
 
Professionals, managers, and executives in the cost estimation industry can gain...
 
In this episode, hear from Carl Hammersburg, Manager, Government and Healthcare...
 
A new study from the Conference Board of Canada gives our...
 
In the world that we are living in today, free and...
 
The delivery method developed by Sir Michael Barber, chief adviser to...
 
Rules and accountability are helpful in developing and standardizing processes but...
 
Canadian doctors were told that climate change impacts human health and...
 
Even as talks between the government and federal workers affected problems...
 
The largest effort in 20 years to seek public input on...
 
Ottawa has overhauled the process by which justices are picked for...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
In this episode, editor-in-chief, Patrice Dutil talks about the need for...
 
As much a 20 per cent of grade seven students in...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Upon receiving numerous complaints regarding add-on fees that turn making economy...
 
Are you absolutely clear what the government wants to achieve? Are...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Written By Jason McNaught The Public Service Alliance of Canada was...
 
Independence has long been regarded as a cornerstone of the auditing...
 
Canada is a diverse nation, in language, culture, geography, and, ultimately,...
 
Public sector organizations are under increasing pressure to identify all risks...
 
The government of Canada has implemented several measures over the past...
 
Whether at the territorial, provincial or federal government level, internal audit...
 
An organization’s reputation can take years to build but it can...
 
On October 30, Ontario began second reading of the Public Sector...
 
In the well-known children’s story, an Emperor falls victim to the...
 
The Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman is a small operation...
 
I think the ombudsman needs to be independent, because without independence...
 
Today’s business environment changes rapidly to adjust to evolving conditions and...
 
The best internal auditors actually are really good managers first. I...
 
The recent controversy about the actions of some staff members in...
 
Most professionals don’t need more than a sentence at a cocktail...
 
Recent research by the Institute of Internal Auditors Canada aims to...
 
When is it that a politician becomes part of the governing...
 
It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the information, privacy...
 
In 1996, a new budget watchdog, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, was...
 
The Ontario government is moving forward with the creation of a...
 
The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada (PSIC)...
 
After the Auditor General’s (AG) report was released on April 30,...
 
In the U.K. system, Permanent Secretaries are what we call Deputy...
 
We are living in a period of rapid change and limited...
 
US public sector employees don’t trust their management to do the...
 
The news of Mark Carney’s nomination as the new Governor of...
 
Following Singapore’s independence in 1965, the controversial leadership of Lee Kuan...
 
Over the past few years, the preparation and delivery of the...
 
In healthcare, cost-cutting can result in cutting what is valued most...
 
For over 20 years Colin Bennett has been exploring issues of...
 
Even before controversy shook the organization to its foundation, Ornge was...
 
It will be the largest international multi-sport event ever held on...
 
We’ve all seen the headlines – BC Ferries, Ornge, la Caisse...
 
It can happen, and it’s noteworthy when it does. Government, business...
 
Kevin Page’s mandate as the first Parliamentary Budget Officer comes to...
 
Governments are challenged to meaningfully mitigate the effects of the financial...
 
Canada is facing a huge financial challenge brought on by massive...
 
For the past one hundred years, democratic states have been moving...
 
It’s so much easier and less painful to learn from the...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.7 September 2007 "If the Public Service, as a...
 
When pondering leadership, we immediately think of exercising our influence downward...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 "How can I be held accountable...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 Canada’s Performance 2006 is the sixth...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.1 January 2008 The furor over the $300,000 that...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.2 February 2008 Let’s say you’re a senior manager,...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 Perhaps it’s a legacy of the...
 
The Independent Blue Ribbon Panel on Grants and Contributions called for...
 
Au Canada, le secteur bénévole et à but non lucratif vit...
 
As the global economy struggles to regain some forward momentum, Canadian...
 
This will be a defining budget for Stephen Harper. It will...
 
It is difficult to determine when the debate about the need...
 
For the next few years, the federal government’s overarching agenda will...
 
Much of the current conversation about the federal government’s economic agenda...
 
Bill Greenlaw is the elected president of the Institute for Public...
 
Have you ever asked yourself the question: ‘How would I evaluate...
 
Last fall, Alberta’s Employment and Immigration department posted online the workplace...
 
In 2006 the world was feeling the aftershocks of a number...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 Robert Parkins, editorial director, met recently...
 
In the past two decades, the nature of the state has...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
Ships docked in a harbour may not be going anywhere; however,...

Member Login

Forgot Password?

Join Us

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.