Internal audit: untapped potential

We need to talk about internal audit

Download Internal audit: untapped potential

CIPFA believes that internal audit is vital in supporting public services to achieve their goals and deliver improved customer service – but often it isn't allowed to maximise its potential.

Public organisations must adapt to global trends in order to effectively manage risks. The COVID-19 pandemic put public services on the frontline, while the continuing advance of technology presents more opportunities for doing things differently. Changing demographics, climate change, and funding pressures are also major factors contributing to how the public sector will need to adapt.

So where does that leave internal audit? We wanted to find out.

About our research

Our report looks at where internal audit is currently making an impact, the areas where it can do more, what's holding it back, and its future potential. It was produced using data collected from a survey of over 800 internal auditors and management professionals across the UK and internationally.

Based on these responses, we were able to build a comprehensive picture of the state of internal audit, and assess where it can improve.

Key internal audit insights

  • Management and governance must be robust and effective if internal audit is also to be effective — the assumption that internal audit can fix everything is misguided.
  • Internal audit is often not allowed to unleash its full potential, and its importance must be fully understood and appreciated by clients – heads of internal audit have a large role to play in achieving this.
  • Internal audit must be kept independent if it is to achieve maximum impact in an organisation, with internal auditors needing to keep additional roles to a minimum and maintain a direct reporting line to the leadership team.
  • Assurance requirements are fluid and constantly changing, meaning internal audit must keep up with the pace of change to be able to impact areas such as climate change, cyber security and evolving financial risks through the use of new technology.
  • The expectation and role of internal audit can vary greatly across different organisations – there must be greater consistency if an organisation is to have access to necessary assurance requirements it needs, rather than just the ones available.

Explore the key highlights of Internal audit: untapped potential

Internal audit in the UK and internationally

The report was authored by Diana Melville, CIPFA Governance Advisor, and Rachel Bowden, founder of ThinkingAudit.

For more information about the project, please email