LAKE MARY, Fla. (November 4, 2022) — The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) – the internal audit profession's leader in standards, certification, education, research, and technical guidance worldwide – today expressed opposition to and called on voters to reject a ballot referendum in Peoria County (Illinois), which would eliminate the office of the County Auditor.
The referendum reads: “Shall Peoria County eliminate the internal Office of County Auditor when Peoria County already has an external Auditor as required by state law? This would be a cost savings of approximately $150,000 annually.”
The IIA, for the reasons outlined below, strongly opposes this referendum:
- As a duly elected representative of the people, the county auditor maintains independence from the county board and provides objective assurance to the public that the government is operating efficiently.
- The county auditor is charged with challenging the county board on issues ranging from organizational risk and internal controls to financial management. The auditor represents a fundamental element in promoting accountability, transparency, and good government.
- Transferring the responsibilities of the county auditor to other officials or an external auditor does not create adequate oversight of the county board and staff:
- Internal audit is a resource that assists management in assessing and managing risk, unlike external auditors who provide assurance on the reliability of financial statements.
- External auditors are trained to review financial statements and evaluate certain financial controls. The internal audit function, as performed by a county auditor, is much broader in scope and includes issues such as risk management, internal controls, and governance.
“Not only is the ballot referendum based on misapplied logic, but it would also do irreparable harm to Peoria taxpayers,” said IIA President and CEO Anthony Pugliese, CIA, CPA, CGMA, CITP. “The value of internal audit to taxpayers, businesses, and communities far outweighs the cost of an internal auditor’s salary. Transparency, accountability, and assurance – particularly in local government, where every dollar matters – is priceless. Internal auditors help ensure local municipalities have proper governance, minimize risk, and help them accomplish their missions, all of which gives taxpayers confidence that their elected officials are being held accountable.”
Based on its population, Peoria County is required by state law to elect a county auditor
Although the county board argues many of the auditor’s duties are duplicative, they demonstrate a misunderstanding of the difference between internal audit and external audit and fail to highlight the one role that is fundamental to the internal audit position: “Maintain a continuous internal audit of the operations and financial records of the officers, agents or divisions of the county.” While external auditors can identify what went wrong after the fact, an internal auditor is constantly providing assurance and advising on processes to ensure something doesn’t go wrong in the first place.
The effort to eliminate or marginalize the role of internal auditors in Illinois is not new
In 2003, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order consolidating state internal auditors into a new Office of Internal Audit within the Department of Central Management Services. While this may have generated cost-savings, it failed to recognize the importance of maintaining full-time internal auditors within state agencies.
In 2008, then Illinois Auditor General William Holland reflected on this executive order: “Another disturbing trend in recent years that I believe is directly related to the removal of internal auditors from the agencies is the increase in the number of findings in my Office’s financial and compliance audits. …I believe a primary reason, and very likely the main reason for the increase in audit findings, has been the removal of internal auditors from the agencies.”
The Illinois General Assembly ultimately rejected the internal audit consolidation in 2009 and returned internal auditors to their respective agencies.
This example demonstrates a direct correlation between the number of audit findings and the existence of a strong internal audit function. Audit findings are inherently valuable – they reduce risk, increase transparency, and ensure processes are being followed.
Peoria County voters must recognize the critical role of the county auditor in expertly challenging the county board. The IIA believes it is imperative that voters preserve the county auditor to promote accountability, objective assurance, and audit independence. Taxpayers deserve to know that their local governments are working in their best interests, operating transparently, and being held accountable by an independent practitioner, and that's exactly why the internal audit function is so critical.
About The Institute of Internal Auditors
The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is a nonprofit international professional association that serves more than 218,000 global members and has awarded 180,000 Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certifications worldwide. Established in 1941, The IIA is recognized throughout the world as the internal audit profession's leader in standards, certification, education, research, and technical guidance. For more information, visit theiia.org.
The Institute of Internal Auditors