When the Institute of Internal Auditors reached out to the world in an effort to understand the nature of internal auditing, it hoped to get comments from 20 countries.It heard from 91.

The 9,344 responses will be summed up and assessed in the 2006 edition of the institute's Common Body of Knowledge, a compilation that has grown exponentially since the first edition was researched back in 1972. Partial preliminary results were released this month, with the rest expected in October and interpretation continuing for years.

"This is the most comprehensive, detailed study of the profession that has ever been completed," said Dominique Vincenti, the institute's chief advocacy officer, "with not only the ability to draw conclusions generically at global levels, but to be able to provide very detailed data and possibilities of analysis and conclusion about the profession at the country level."

Vincenti said that the results of the survey were substantial enough to serve as a baseline against which future studies can be compared. The next edition of the Common Body of Knowledge will be researched in 2009, after which the institute will be able to analyze global trends. Four previous editions of the CBOK were conducted in too few countries to serve as a global baseline.

Perhaps the most important information the institute wanted to learn was the extent of global compliance with its internal audit standards. Globally, an average of 82 percent said that the IIA's standards were used in whole or in part.

Dr. Priscilla A. Burnaby, a CPA and professor of accountancy at Bentley College in Massachusetts, helped write, organize, conduct and interpret the survey. She said that she was surprised at the level of compliance.

"The IIA doubled in size between 2003 and 2006, so I didn't know whether the people who had joined recently would be as sophisticated in their use of the standards as the people who had been members for a long time," she said. "What I found was that most of the affiliates and individuals who responded are following, in whole or in part, the standards. I thought that was very good, considering that the membership had increased so dramatically in the past few years."

The IIA currently has over 127,000 members in 165 countries. The survey was administered in 17 languages.

AND NOW, THE RESULTS

Statistics from the study indicated that 28 percent of respondents said that their organizations have had an internal audit function for less than five years. Another 21 percent had had an internal audit function for only six to 10 years.

About 12 percent of respondents said that their organizations did not follow the IIA's international standards because their staff was too small, management did not see the value of compliance, or compliance was seen as too time-consuming. About 10 percent said that other standards, such as those designed for governmental audits, were used.

The least-followed standard is Statement 1300, Quality Assurance and Improvement Program, which requires chief audit executives to "develop and maintain a quality assurance and improvement program that covers all aspects of the internal audit activity and continuously monitors its effectiveness." One third of the respondents never had an internal assessment, and another 25 percent did not expect one in the next 12 months. Small audit departments and low budgets were the main reasons why auditors did not comply with Statement 1300.

Burnaby pointed out that some respondents identified a need for more education regarding the requirements of the standards.

The study also revealed important "emerging roles" of the internal auditor. Among the areas that showed relatively little internal audit activity today but high likelihood of activity in the next three years were environmental sustainability, corporate social responsibility, knowledge management, and alignment of strategy and performance measures.

The study distributed different questionnaires to each of three distinct groups: IIA affiliates, chief audit executives, and non-CAE internal auditors.

The study discriminated information not only by geography, but also by culture, thereby enabling statistical correlation with other business and governance issues. That information is still being analyzed and will not be released until October.

"It was a very promising study," Burnaby said. "It was very encouraging to see so many people in full or partial compliance."

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