Auditing Section Research Summaries Space

A Database of Auditing Research - Building Bridges with Practice

This is a public Custom Hive  public

research summary

    Welcome to the day-to-day of internal auditors: How do they...
    research summary posted July 30, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.11 Reliance on Internal Auditors, 13.0 Governance, 13.07 Internal auditor role and involvement in controls and reporting 
    Welcome to the day-to-day of internal auditors: How do they cope with conflict?
    Practical Implications:

    This study makes an original contribution to the development of new knowledge on internal auditing. It concludes that internal auditors tend to lack independence and audit committee members often exercise disturbingly weak power (on the internal audit function), as compared to the top managers. This points to the difficulty of applying an idealized conception of independence and purist governance principles to practice. That is, it encourages auditors to consider the appropriateness of internal auditing as a meaningful independent assurance device in operating the corporate governance "mosaic."


    Roussy, M. 2015. Welcome to the day-to-day of internal auditors: How do they cope with conflict? Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 34 (2): 237-264.

    audit committee, conflicts, coping, independence, internal audit
    Purpose of the Study:

    The internal audit function (IAF) was made mandatory in both private and public companies in North America in the early 2000s. This paper proposes a ''micro-level'' analysis of the way in which internal auditors express role conflicts in their day-to-day practice and how they perceive, manage, and resolve them. The study seeks to show that the independence of the internal auditor is often not up to the standards that are expected of the internal audit function (IAF), and therefore unlikely to play an effective governance oversight role compatible with the ideal of the new public management governance reform.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    A field study was conducted involving semi-structured interviews with 42 internal auditors working in 13 public sector organizations. Interviews were conducted between May and October 2010. Each interviewee had 10-15 years of experience in internal auditing, with 20-25 years of professional experience total. Data was interpreted in the light of a theoretical analysis framework designed especially for this study. Organizational and social context was taken into consideration for each interview.


    Overall, the results indicate that internal auditors have a relative lack of independence (as compared with the Institute of Internal Auditors’ standards.) More specifically:

    • While internal auditors are strategic in managing conflicts, they do not consider the cumulative effect that their coping behavior has on their lack of independence.
    • The audit committee does not greatly influence internal auditors’ coping tactics at any stage in the audit process.
    • Auditors use “pragmatic” behavior because they are embedded in a specific organizational and social context that they are ‘‘forced’’ to take into account.
    • The analysis casts doubt on the audit committee’s ability and commitment to consolidate and ensure internal auditor independence.

    Ultimately, the study concludes that internal auditors behave as if the IAF were a means for managerial control, instead of a governance mechanism.

    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Governance
    Internal auditor role and involvement in controls and reporting, Reliance on Internal Auditors