May 23, 2023
By Melissa Musser, Partner and Director GRF Risk & Advisory Services, President of the IIA Washington DC Chapter.
Do you know if an employee is stealing from your company? Quite often, the first hint of a problem comes from an insider tip. Having a comprehensive whistleblower program in place is a powerful early warning mechanism for identifying potential fraud or misconduct. If you have an internal audit function, you already have the tools in place to support whistleblower investigations.
Internal audits play an invaluable role in promoting good governance, managing risks, and adding value to organizations. In honor of Internal Audit Awareness Month here are several ways in which an internal audit team can support a whistleblower investigation:
- Receiving and Documenting Whistleblower Reports
This includes maintaining the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity and ensuring the integrity of the investigation process.
- Investigative Planning and Execution
Internal auditors can deploy a well-defined investigative plan to address the allegations raised by the whistleblower. This plan includes identifying the scope of the investigation, gathering relevant evidence, interviewing relevant individuals, and analyzing the information collected.
- Gathering Evidence and Conducting Interviews
Internal auditors are experts in collecting relevant documentation, reviewing financial records, and performing data analysis to support an investigation. Depending on circumstances, they may also conduct interviews with individuals involved or identified in the whistleblower report, seeking clarification or additional information.
- Assessing Controls and Identifying Weaknesses
Evaluating an organization’s internal controls and identifying any weaknesses or gaps is a major tenet of the internal audit function. This evaluation helps determine whether the existing controls need to be strengthened or modified to prevent similar incidents in the future.
- Analyzing Root Causes and Providing Recommendations
Internal auditors can provide recommendations to address systemic issues and improve processes, policies, and controls.
- Collaboration with Compliance and Legal Departments
Internal audit can collaborate with compliance and legal departments throughout the investigation process, ensuring that the investigation is conducted in alignment with legal and regulatory requirements and that appropriate actions are taken based on the findings.
- Reporting and Communication
A whistleblower report can include the nature of the reported misconduct, the evidence collected, and the conclusions reached. These reports can be shared with management, the board of directors, and relevant stakeholders to inform them of the investigation’s outcome and any necessary remedial actions.
- Monitoring and Follow-Up
Internal audit can assist in monitoring the implementation of corrective actions or recommendations resulting from the whistleblower investigation. By tracking the progress and effectiveness of the implemented measures, internal auditors can provide ongoing assurance that the issues raised by the whistleblower are appropriately addressed.
The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA) and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) conducted a worldwide survey of their members to learn what makes a successful whistleblower program. Learn key findings or download the full report for key benchmarking data.
GRF Can Help
GRF’s team of CPA/CIA/CFE/CISA/CRISC/CITP/CEH certified professionals provide risk-based Internal Audit Co-Sourcing solutions across all aspects of operations for domestic and international organizations. We regularly investigate sensitive issues raised by whistleblowers, helping you understand the facts and circumstances, risks, and corrective action needed to properly resolve a whistleblower complaint.
Reporting a problem in the workplace can be hugely challenging for stakeholders, so we’ve partnered with Whistleblower Software to provide an incident reporting platform that protects anonymity and helps guide whistleblowers through every step of the way. For international organizations, the software supports 70+ languages to aid in reporting ease.
Learn more about our Secure Whistleblower Investigation Services on our website, or feel free to contact me at the information below.