Whistleblowing internal auditors : a contradiction in terms?

Vinten, Gerald (1995). Whistleblowing internal auditors : a contradiction in terms? BPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fb65


The topic of whistleblowing is achieving unprecedented prominence in official reports, publications, research, legislation and the media. Some influential voices are suggesting that far from whistleblowing - informing on organizations that commit illegal or unethical acts - being subversive and undesirable, it may in certain circumstances deserve high praise. Inevitably it entails huge risks, and these risks need to be personally and carefully considered.

The first part of this thesis examines the case of external audit, a close cousin of internal audit. There should be fewer opportunities for the external auditor to blow the whistle, although such instances are likely to be highly material. There has been much international debate on the role and purpose of external audit, and this has tended to exclude whistleblowing. However there are winds of change, and tightening of legislation and recent ethical guidance suggests that there are occasions when whistleblowing is either required or seriously to be contemplated.

Attention then turns to the central theme of internal audit. For practitioners the issue is far from clear-cut, and the Code of Ethics of the Institute of Internal Auditors and its other guidance is found to be ambiguous and even prejudicial to the interests of the individual member. Case studies of internal audit whistleblowing highlight the issues. Participant observation and social audit are explored, since both result in the possession insights that are the substance from which whistleblowing revelations are derived.

Generalized examples of whistleblowing are then presented to shed light on the wider context. Disaster situations by their life-threatening nature receive more widespread assent as to their societal value . The extent of legal protection for whistleblowers follows. Finally come criteria for valid forms of whistleblowing, the formulation of codes of ethics for whistleblowers, and suggest the way forward for the internal audit profession

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