18th annual regional audit conference a resounding success

The 18th Annual Regional Audit Conference ended successful note with internal auditing experts highlighting the most relevant issues and challenges.

Michael Gowell Ziad El Haddad

Internal auditors must step up and face the challenges posed by digital transformation to ensure effective auditing and success of their organisations, said Abdulqader Obaid Ali, President of UAE Internal Auditors Association and CEO, Smartworld.



“We talked about internal auditing in hyperloop speed as we are living in a world where digital transformation is rapidly changing the way we work, live and function. By 2020, we will have more than 30 billion devices connected. Auditors need to ensure they effectively met this challenge and, at the same time, work with speed and accuracy. The 18th Annual Regional Conference discussed how digitalization is transforming our world and how internal auditors need to adapt to these changes. We are pleased that the conference added great value to internal auditors who gave us a very positive feedback on the learnings from the conference,” he said.


The 18thAnnual Regional Audit Conference ended on a highly successful note with internal auditing experts from across the GCC region highlighting the most relevant issues and challenges facing internal auditors amid the rapidly transforming business scenario and the significant role internal auditors can play in organisational success.


Held under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, the two-day conference, organised by the UAE Internal Auditors Association was conducted under the theme of ‘Audit in Hyperloop Speed’, and included insightful speeches from eminent business leaders from across the region and ‘Rapid Fire Presentations’ from experts.


Mishal Hamed Kanoo, Chairman of The Kanoo Group, said: “Over 90 per cent of businesses in the GCC region are owned by families, and have a significant contribution to the economy. However, the two key issues in family businesses are trust and control, with majority of them unwilling to give up control and unsure of how well the information they are receiving can be trusted. Internal auditors must overcome this challenge and understand that they are doing so for not only the business owners, but for all the stakeholders involved.”


“The role of internal auditors is to correct mistakes, enhance efficiencies and this aspect is very important for the success of businesses. If a business does not understand the problems, it will keep repeating them. Infact, many of the family owned businesses fail after the first generation,” said Kanoo, while emphasising on the need for an effective internal auditing for family-owned businesses.


Experts explained the impact of technological transformation and how internal auditors need to be well prepared to handle the changes and make the most of new technology.


“Cyber-attacks, data breach and unplanned telecom and IT outage are the top 3 threats to organisations nowadays,” said Emily Hunt from Deloitte, in her presentation on ‘Using internal audit to enhance resilience and crisis capabilities’.


She said in an event of crisis, these could severely impact a company’s ability to function. Internal auditing in an organisation needs to ensure that there is a proper plan in place to manage crisis and it is implemented effectively. Internal audit can not only examine and evaluate the effectiveness and resilience of such plan, it can also drive improvement and innovation in the capability of an organisation to effectively handle crisis.


Talking about ‘Robotics: The Future of IA is now’, Amrit Fogla and Leena El Deek from EY, said internal auditing can significantly benefit from the appropriate use of robotics. “In a smart business environment, where the company has data,  Robotics Process Automation can help leverage existing tools in place, build on its own repository, start analysis and help make meaningful, effective decisions. It can also facilitate streamlined audit in addition to improving operational efficiencies focused on strategy and direction. The more your organisation is smart, the more your internal auditing will be smart and you will be able to achieve your internal auditing objectives in a relaxed way.”


“Data driven processes are a revolution in the way companies do business. Analytics can help in better decision making, uncover hidden insights, reduce costs and mobility,” said Ziad El Haddad, in his presentation on ‘Advantages and Challenges of IA Analytics’.


He said decision makers need more powerful tools for uncovering hidden patterns that can go undetected.


Hisham Tohami from Grant Thornton, in his presentation on ‘The Changing World Order’, said Big Data, Internet of Things, Nano Technology and Artificial Intelligence are growing exponentially and necessitate that companies, especially internal auditors enhance skills and change their competitive edge.


Michael Gowell, Team Mate, while giving a presentation on ‘Best Practices for Leveraging Technology highlighted the need to enhance technology effectiveness.


“The single biggest factor to enhance technology effectiveness in a company is getting the strong support from top management. Technology use needs to be prioritized, or even made compulsory, people with relevant technological skill set need to be hired. Training is also a highly important component.”


Internal auditors also attended special workshops on different topics such as impact of VAT, ethical considerations in auditing, new age paperless and online internal audit, role of internal audit in managing change and enhancing risk assessment and audit planning processes.