When a consultant couldn't find positive portrayals of internal auditors in fiction, he decided to create his own
It's safe to say that popular culture hasn't been kind to internal auditors. The few references to the profession in television, movies, and books either confuse them with accountants or portray them as disliked corporate stooges or nerdy paper-pushers.
This non-existent or negative portrayal so bothered Wa'el Bibi, a former internal auditor and current internal audit consultant, that he decided to do something about it. Bibi authored a short book of fiction, The Internal Auditor, which includes a hero internal audit protagonist who draws on his full complex of talents to uncover a burgeoning corporate fraud and save the day.
Hamlet, the book is not. But the plot of The Internal Auditor is compelling and for those who, like Bibi, are hungry for a positive depiction of internal auditors in a fictitious setting, the book certainly fits the bill.
"Just about every profession—lawyers, doctors, teachers, and detectives—are represented in fiction in various ways, except internal auditors," says Bibi. "I have a passion for internal audit and for fiction, so I wanted to put those together and create a character that would portray internal auditors in a positive light," he says. Bibi self-published the book, which is available for download on Amazon.
The story of The Internal Auditor, which weighs in at a breezy 32 pages, centers on Steve Anderson, the newly appointed chief audit executive at the Advanced Technology Corp. There, Anderson uncovers a daring fraud being planned by the CFO and sets out to collect evidence and bring the deception into the light.
Steve does everything right as an internal auditor, as this passage demonstrates:
Ever since he joined the company, he tried to establish communication channels with senior management to introduce his vision of internal audit and to obtain a better understanding of the business and management expectations. One of the hardest people to connect with was Mike Smith who usually gave Steve the cold shoulder and didn't show interest in the internal audit activity. So, today's call from Mike not only came as a surprise but also with a lot of skepticism!
Anderson is the ideal of a courageous, ethical internal auditor operating with what he calls the three "Is" of internal audit: impact, influence, and independence. He exercises healthy skepticism as events unfold and works with diligence and a sense of purpose to dig down into the potential fraud.
We Can Be Heroes
"The point is to show that internal auditors can be the hero. That they are the protectors of the company and often go out of their way to defend shareholders and act in the best interest of the company," says Bibi, who heads Bibi Consulting based in Ottawa, Canada. Steve has the best qualities of many internal auditors that Bibi has met in his career, even if his fictional representation may be too good to be true. "I'm not sure I've ever met an internal auditor like Steve in the real world," says Bibi. "But he can be a model for others to follow."
Some of the themes Bibi says he wanted to convey in the book are: 1) that internal auditors are underappreciated, 2) that the profession needs to do more to promote and market itself in a positive light, 3) that internal auditors must be more courageous in their jobs, and 4) that internal auditors need to be protected when they make difficult decisions, such as bringing accusations against those who are more senior in the company. He says he hopes students and those who may be considering an internal audit career will read it and become inspired to become proud internal auditors. He would also like to see the profession push for more positive representations of internal audit in fiction and television.
Real-Life Protections for Internal Auditors?
Near the end, Steve must take some risks that could easily end his job, if not his career. "As an internal auditor, sometimes you have to go out on a limb and make very difficult decisions," says Bibi. He says the profession should do more to advocate for protections for internal auditors, such as regulations that discourage retaliation similar to whistleblower protections.
Bibi dedicated the book "to courageous internal auditors and those who try to be courageous!" And he while he doesn't expect it to do for internal auditors what All the King's Men about Watergate did for journalists, he's hopeful it can play a small part in changing those negative stereotypes of internal auditors. Of the main character, he says: "Everyone is going to fall in love with him."