Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. File picture: Antoine de Ras

Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday said that internal auditors should be less like policemen and be the conscience of their organisations, her office said.

Spokeswoman Kgalalelo Masibi said Madonsela took part in a panel discussion during the Southern African Internal Auditors Conference.

Madonsela asked internal auditors why was it that some organsof state that consistently got clean audits ended up with difficult cases, Masibi said.

“Where millions of rands had gone into corrupt deals or deals that should not have been entered into,” Masibi said.

“She (Madonsela) asked whether it was because internal auditors were not always whispering truth to the powers that be or whether it was because they were employed at relatively junior levels, making it difficult to lead appropriately.”

Madonsela told the conference that without effective oversight by strong integrity systems, like her office, plans entailed in the national and other government plans were “pipe dreams”.

“The same applied to the corporate sector as great visions and strategic plans in the corporate world were also doomed to fail if there was no effective oversight, particularly ensuring good financial controls, compliance and risk management,” said Madonsela.

Madonsela said that as society moved forward with introspection, it should ask itself why it was that more and more African countries were going down on the Transparency International Corruption Index.

“She (Madonsela) asked if it was because internal audits was picking up problem areas and that the issues in question were not being taken care of or whether there were problems around power dynamics in organisations that prevented internal auditors from speaking truth to power.

“She (Madonsela) further asked if it should be a concern to society that media stories around malfeasance and corruption were becoming the order of the day,” said Masibi.

Madonsela said that she was grateful that internal auditors were not failing to provide leadership where necessary regarding issues relating to financial controls, risk management and governance.

Madonsela's view was that internal auditors were doing “excellent work” around policing but needed to step up their role with regard to leadership in so far as engaging leaders in organisations about risks and challenges and ensuring action.

The office of the public protector was also monitored by internal auditors and Madonsela said she was grateful that they were the first to warn her if her office was heading for a cliff before the Auditor-General came in.

Madonsela also said that if internal auditors strengthened their watchful eye and voices to “whisper truth to power”, they would help ensure that companies did not implode or only discover that things had gone bad when external auditors came in.