The economic crisis will force many companies to cut costs at their internal audit departments, according to a new study from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The economy is the top issue for the coming year, according to PwC's fifth annual study of current issues for the internal audit profession. While the economy dominates auditors’ concerns, other issues such as increased globalization, alignment to emerging risks, and declining budgets are also important to internal audit leaders.

Forty-nine percent of the respondents expect budgets to remain flat and 36 percent expect a decrease in the coming year. In addition, 51 percent of Fortune 500 survey respondents believe that there is a medium-to-high risk of the economic downturn causing an unexpected reduction in the internal audit budget during 2009. In addition, the study found that 58 percent of respondents’ staff have five years or less of experience.

“Internal audit department leaders are facing unprecedented challenges and many are hard pressed to maintain coverage at a lower cost,” said PwC partner and U.S. internal audit services leader Jim LaTorre, in a statement. “Yet among the challenges are opportunities to raise the bar and find creative and cost-effective solutions to transform the internal audit function and bring increased value to the organization and its stakeholders.”

To download a copy of the report, visit www.pwc.com/internalaudit.

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