After 25 years in internal audit, I have come to the conclusion that excellent audit planning is essential to ensuring an effective audit. What is a successful audit? A good measure is whether both audit management and the auditee feel good about the end results.

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A new research report from The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Research Foundation finds a wide variety of factors influence the maturity levels of internal audit functions around the world. The age and size of the internal audit function, industry type, organizational size, and other variables often influence how quickly internal audit functions can operate to deliver a high level of value.

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Mention "cyber-threat" and many of us envision an over-caffeinated twenty something in a hoodie tapping away on a keyboard as he snoops into our networks from the poorly lit back room of some run-down apartment thousands of miles awayin a country like Russia or Chinastealing customer credit card details and other sensitive data.

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A survey by the Big Four audit firm finds that a startling number of audit leaders are concerned about the skills and expertise their teams have to deliver on stakeholder expectations for efficient audits, insightful reports, and effective decision-support in the years ahead.

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The role of internal audit in organizations is rapidly expanding as auditors move from being rule enforcers and compliance police to trusted advisors. Audit departments are being asked to audit culture, corporate strategy, and governance functions and are increasingly being consulted on key projects and business decisions.

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The Financial Accounting Standards Board issued a proposed Accounting Standards Update that is intended to enhance disclosure requirements on business income taxes. The proposal would require public and private companies to change the way they report income taxes on their financial statements to include more information about country-by-country tax reporting and more about the cash they hold overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes on foreign earnings.

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Just 10 percent of companies are prepared to adopt the new Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) lease accounting standards, according to a recent report by audit firm Deloitte. And it's not that many companies are just procrastinating; only 15 percent of respondents say they expect compliance to go smoothly when requirements begin kicking in as early as next year.

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Companies might want to review their severance agreements and other employment contracts in light of a recent Securities and Exchange Commission ruling. The SEC is taking issue with language that discourages employees or former employees from raising concerns about wrongdoing to its whistleblower office.

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Social media sites are becoming a bigger part of most companies' plans to connect with customers and other stakeholders. And while sites like Twitter and Facebook can be powerful marketing tools, they are also fraught with risks.

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No organization is 100 percent safe from hacks, cybercrime, or boneheaded employee actions that can expose the company to data breaches. Most companies have shifted from a purely prevention mindset to one of a risk-based approach to cybersecurity with a robust incident response plan.

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All organizations know that flexibility, productivity, and personalization were drivers of the BYOD movement that started to take hold five, six years ago. Mobile device usage is ubiquitous, and even office-based employees reap the benefits of the ability to logon at any time from a tiny computer toted around in his or her pocket. 

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Data analytics is supposed to be the great savior of the internal audit function. It has been heralded as the set of tools that will give organizations new insights into risk management, fraud, and corruption. It would free up internal auditors to use their skills on assessing non-traditional areas of the business and lower the cost of internal audit. It would change the internal audit profession entirely.

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In December 2007, I was appointed as the Inspector General of the Securities and Exchange Commission and served in that capacity until January 2012. An IG is an internal watchdog for a governmental body with its primary purpose being to identify and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in the agency. IGs supervise both internal audit and investigative units.

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There isn't a company out there, big or small, that doesn't have some concerns about cybersecurity. Some have called it the biggest problem of our time for companies. Given the potential for the types of disasters Target, Sony, and so many others have experienced, it's no surprise that internal audit has played an important role in ensuring that cybersecurity systems are in place and functioning.

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U.S. regulators have expanded the role of the audit committee in recent years to oversee the hiring and performance of the external auditor in the hopes of improving audit quality. In many ways, the United States was just catching up with audit governance practices that were already common in Europe. 

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