Guest Auditor Programs: Six Pitfalls to Avoid

By Mikhail Ben Rabah, CIA, CFE, CRMA
Government Audit Manager, Presidency of the Government, Tunisia.


The critical need to recruit a wide range of competencies and expertise is one of the unique aspects of internal audit activity. None of the other activities or departments in the organization may need such a broad set of skills, knowledge and experience to fulfill its function. Thus, to address emerging risks and drive business value in a fast-changing world, internal audit departments should find the right talent mix as the right staff size.


The Covid-19 pandemic crisis has demonstrated how crucial it is to have a highly-skilled and diversified internal audit workforce to build a better resilient organization.

However, not all organizations can afford the luxury of staffing their internal audit departments with full-time permanent auditors with a wide range of expertise.Furthermore, it may be not cost-effective. Here is why.

  • Some areas of expertise are not required all the time and for all types of audit engagements. For instance, a full-time HSE auditor or expert may not be necessary for a small retail business.
  • In a technology-driven, innovation oriented world, risks are changing on an ongoing basis requiring a continuous update of skills and expertise. Not all internal audit departments can keep pace with these rapid changes.
  • Stakeholders’ expectations, especially in a complex business environment may challenge the audit activity to provide opinions and recommendations about unpredictable issues requiring specific expertise.

Therefore, internal audit departments have made use of innovative resourcing models.

The IIA’s Global Internal Audit Competency Framework and the IIA’s Practice Guide “Talent Management: Recruiting, Developing, Motivating, and Retaining Great Team Members” provide an excellent guidance to CAEs and organizations to this effect.


Guest Auditors Programs (GAPs)

Guest Auditors Programs (GAPs) are among these models. This is an internal recruitment strategy used to fill competency gaps for specific audit engagements.


The internal audit department hire a subject matter expert from other parts of the organization to make a short-term commitment to internal audit.

Typically, guest auditor serves on a unique internal audit engagement. This alternative recruitment strategy is both beneficial for the internal audit department and the organization through:

  • Avoiding additional costs incurred by external recruitment and outsourcing.
  • Enhancing knowledge sharing within the organization.
  • Promoting the internal audit activity among other employees by gaining a better understanding of the value it can drive for the organization. GAPs give them a unique opportunity to be familiar with audit processes and practices, such as assessment of risks and controls which in turn helps them to manage their risks in business operations better than before. Overall, GAPs contribute to break the isolation of the audit department, often considered as a secret chapeltoo long obscured in shadow and mystery. 


GAPs Pitfalls to Avoid

Nevertheless, opting for GAPs is not a risk-free path. Here are six pitfalls to avoid.

1-Not enough communicating about the program and its benefits for the organization. GAPs have to turn out to be a win-win situation for both internal audit and its stakeholders. For example, some internal audit departments failing to do so did not find candidates because they were fearing to be considered as potential spies by their colleagues.

2-Failing to establish baseline criteria from which to evaluate potential candidates for the program. Besides the specific skills required by the audit engagement, the guest auditor should meet some core competencies such as critical thinking, communication, persuasion and collaboration.

3-Not checking for potential conflict of interest which can impede the objectivity of the audit work. Guest auditors should be free of any conflict of interest that may exist regarding the audit engagement.

4-Not briefing the guest auditor about the internal audit code of ethics and charter. Among issues that can arise, the non-respect of confidentiality by the guest auditor.

5-Not providing the guest auditor with preparatory materials before the start of the audit engagement.

6- Not evaluating performance and satisfaction with the guest auditor program and share such information with human resources.