Survey finds 26% of Saudi organizations do not consider IT audits as part of their Internal Audit plan, while 44% of businesses lack personnel with IT or cybersecurity expertise in their IA function

Saudi Arabia: A new survey has been conducted by Protiviti Member Firm Middle East in coordination and cooperation with the Saudi Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA-KSA). As the legislator in the field in Saudi Arabia, the IIA-KSA encourages all members and specialists in the field to contribute towards adding valuable knowledge to the profession. 

The survey highlights how Saudi businesses are coping with the challenges and opportunities of digital innovation and related disruption in the Internal Audit (IA) space. Speaking at the report launch, Adnan Zakariya, Country Managing Director for Protiviti Member Firm for Saudi Arabia, emphasized that “As Saudi Arabia charts its course towards a prosperous future, aligning the role of Internal Audit with the Vision 2030 goals is a strategic imperative for all organizations. By ensuring robust governance, identifying potential risks, and fostering accountability, IA professionals contribute to the Kingdom's path of sustainable growth and diversification across various sectors."

The survey findings highlighted technological innovations and cybersecurity threats amongst two significant risks faced by organizations in the Kingdom. Despite this, only 29% consider digital innovation and related disruptions an obstacle and 26% of Saudi organizations do not consider IT audits as part of their IA plan, while 44% of these lack personnel required tech expertise in their IA function. The report recommended IA department should integrate IT audits into their annual plans and provide training in technology and cybersecurity skills to team members, as increasing data privacy regulations will further emphasize the importance of strengthening internal IT controls.

Elaborating on the Internal Audit pulse survey initiative, Sanjay Rajagopalan, Managing Director, and Leader of the Internal Audit practice for Protiviti Member Firm, said that “Our partnership with the IIA for the pulse of Internal Audit survey series across GCC has highlighted the increasing integration of artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and data analytics into the Internal Audit process. These trends are reshaping how internal auditors approach risk assessment, control testing, and overall audit strategy across the region, allowing for more efficient and insightful decision-making."

As per survey, 43% of the organizations regard liquidity/ financial risk as the primary threat to their business, followed by operational risk at 29%. However, 53% of respondents expressed confidence in their organization's ability to identify and evaluate emerging risks. Two-thirds (63%) of respondents said that their organization has a formal process that periodically engages senior management to identify, review and prioritize top risks. This suggests a paradigm shift in local organizations' outlook toward risk management with 58% respondent agreeing that IA provides value through assurance, consulting activities, and promoting governance culture within the organization.

According to Darshan Mehta, Managing Director, Protiviti Member Firm, "Saudi businesses are becoming more aware and proactive in managing their risks in a dynamic and an uncertain environment. The IA function is vital in providing assurance and advisory services to senior management in navigating the transformational journey with a major role for Audit Committees in achieving their strategic objectives".

As indicated by 71% of respondents, the skills and experience of the Audit Committee adds value and provides adequate governance oversight on issues related to internal controls and 60% saying that more transformation and innovative initiatives would be undertaken in the next two years. The shift is also reflected in the actions of Audit Committees that are encouraging the IA function to proactively explore new and better ways of delivery and undertake innovation-related activities.

The survey also pointed out some areas of improvement for the IA function, such as addressing undue pressure from the business, increasing the use of data analytics, and developing agile audit methodologies.

Access the complete survey report here.

This survey was conducted in cooperation with the Saudi Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA-KSA), the first legislator of the internal audit profession in Saudi Arabia, whose objectives include raising professional awareness and promoting professional ethics for individuals and institutions in the Internal Auditing profession.

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