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Internal auditing drive to curb graft
By Liu Weiling (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-07-05 06:02

In the wake of last week's auditing report by the government's top accounting watchdog, an increasing number of Chinese firms have been busy hammering out better internal auditing systems to plug management loopholes and curb operating risks.

NAO auditor-general Li Jinhua delivers a report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in Beijing on June 28, 2005. [Xinhua]
And this will bring the country's 230,000 sharp-pencilled internal auditors into full play, according to Wang Daocheng, chairman of the China Institute of Internal Auditors (CIIA).

"They can impose supervision at any moment and prevent corruption at its source," Wang told China Daily. "That is more efficient than disclosing irregularities after they have already taken place."

More importantly, internal auditors are no longer pure "economic policemen" who mainly check the authenticity of enterprises' income and expenditure. Instead, more of their focus has shifted to building a stricter internal control system and putting forward constructive suggestions to management teams.

Auditor-in-Chief Li Jinhua said the goal of internal auditing is "management plus efficiency."

He told a recent internal auditing meeting that internal auditors should strive to "propel enterprises and institutions to improve management and to enhance construction of internal control systems."

Statistics from the CIIA indicate that between 2000 and 2004, internal auditors across the country finished a total of 1.98 million auditing projects, discovering misused funds of 42.09 billion yuan (US$5.07 billion) in the process. Over 1 million suggestions they proposed were subsequently adopted by the enterprises and institutions.

Enhancing internal control has become a priority for many domestic enterprises following recent revelations of a string of scandals in major State banks and the huge loss of China Aviation Oil in derivatives trading.

After Li released his auditing report last week unveiling violations on the part of ministries, institutions and enterprises, top executives from the organizations concerned, such as the four asset management companies and China Construction Bank, all vowed to intensify their internal auditing.

"Most large and medium-sized enterprises are aware of the importance of internal auditing and have established internal auditing departments," said Wang. The Agricultural Bank of China, for example, set up an 8,000-member auditing team.

However, Wang admitted there are still some blocks hindering further development of internal auditing. The biggest is the lack of a legal framework. China's current Accounting Law, Corporate Law and Securities Law all fail to define the position of internal auditing in companies, while the ongoing revision of corporate and securities laws do not cover this topic.

Another hindrance is the lack of sufficient numbers of qualified internal auditors. Only about 6,000 Chinese internal auditors meet the internationally-recognized Certified Internal Auditors standard, while over 200,000 hold the domestic qualification issued by the CIIA.

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