Audit, Ageing and Excellence

Audit, Ageing and Excellence

I remember when I took on my first senior management role; I was introduced to the Head of Internal Audit as part of my induction. I chatted with her politely for 30 minutes and then she popped the question, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” Unable to resist, I replied, “Yes – stay as far away from me as possible.”

I’d always believed Internal Audit was simply organised snooping and auditors were people who found accountancy too exciting to cope with. Auditors were the kind of people who walk around the battlefield after the battle is over and bayonet the wounded. To my mind, agreeing unconditionally with an Internal audit recommendation always signalled a loss of humanity.

I currently have a small number of non- executive roles in the care sector and they draw me inexorably to the Audit Committee. I see it as an opportunity to taunt auditors, which is obviously an opportunity too good to miss.

Of course nowadays Audit Committees are risk obsessed. In the health and care sectors, poor levels of service cannot only result in a letter of complaint; it can also result in death. The risks associated with caring for vulnerable people where a large percentage of your workforce is paid on or close to the minimum wage are not insignificant.

Now whilst I still believe audit is not a profession in the vanguard of human kindness, I have changed some of my views of auditors (particularly good ones). Crunching the numbers, trailing the processes, procedures and systems will get you only so far. It is not very interesting work but someone has to do it and I am increasingly of the view, “thank goodness they do”.

Understanding the care business and using those numbers and trails, is a management task that will enable you to spot trends, warning lights, alarm bells, anticipate problems and intervene early. In my view, auditors were not born to deliver quality services, but they do have an invaluable place in assisting the more advanced elements of the species (i.e. me and you), to pursue excellence and manage the risks, which threaten it.

Are your internal auditors doing a good job? Is your audit committee focusing on the right risks?

Chris Wood, Altair Partner, leads our development services (and has views on most things). Chris can be contacted on 07932 693292 or

For another view on Audit and risk, Fiona Underwood will be chairing the NHF Audit Committees Conference on 3rd December. Fiona can be contacted on 07788 643092 or