Internal auditors conduct audit to ensure the University is on a solid footing

From left, Head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Dr Nhlanhla Nsele; the Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Professor Roger Coopoosamy; and Internal Auditor: Risk and Internal Audit, Mbali Khumalo

The University’s Risk and Internal Audit continues with auditing the University departments. Mbali Khumalo, Internal Auditor: Risk and Internal Audit, said they started auditing the departments towards the end of 2023. Khumalo said that “risk assessment is a systematic process of identifying, analysing, and evaluating potential risks that could affect an organisation, project, or activity”. She said the purpose of a risk assessment was to understand the nature and magnitude of various risks and their potential impacts, to develop strategies for managing or mitigating those risks effectively.

Khumalo said that so far, they have conducted departmental risks assessments for the Faculty of Engineering, the Department of Information Technology and Networks (IT&N, the Department of Finance, and the Department of Biomedical Sciences. “We have also run a strategic risks workshop with the Executive Management,” Khumalo said.

Giving the reasons for conducting the audits, Khumalo said internal auditing is performed for several reasons, all of which contribute to enhancing an institution’s operations, risk management, governance, and compliance. Internal auditing is conducted to ensure assurance of compliance. “Internal auditors ensure that the institution complies with applicable laws, regulations, policies, and procedures. Internal auditors also assess risks that the institution faces and evaluate the effectiveness of risk management processes. Internal auditing also gives the auditors an opportunity to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the institution’s operations and processes and identify areas for improvements. After conducting internal audit, the auditors review financial transactions, controls, and reporting processes to ensure the accuracy and reliability of financial information,” said Khumalo. Khumalo also added that internal auditing also results in the assessment of the effectiveness of the institution’s governance structure, including the roles and responsibilities of management and the board of directors. “By promoting transparency and accountability, internal auditing strengthens governance practices,” Khumalo said. She also said that internal auditors evaluate the performance of various functions and departments within the institution, and identify strengths and weaknesses, benchmark performance against industry standards, and recommend strategies for improvement.

Khumalo said the reviews of the departmental risk registers are done annually, along with the strategic risks register which pertains to the strategic goals of the institution. She said that during the process, effective continuous communication is done to ensure that risks and emerging risks are regularly identified, assessed, and managed appropriately.

Referring to the audit they conducted on 13 March 2024 to the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Khumalo said they looked at risks associated with ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and ethical standards governing biomedical sciences. They also considered risks related to laboratory accidents, exposure to hazardous materials, or biosecurity breaches requiring robust safety, protocols, training programmes, and emergency response procedures to protect the health and safety of researchers, students, and staff. “We also considered challenges in recruiting and retaining talented faculty members, and technical staff due to competition from other institutions, or insufficient career development opportunities impacting the department’s productivity and reputation,” said Khumalo. The internal auditors also highlighted the risks associated with maintaining the relevance and quality of educational programmes in biomedical sciences, “including challenges in curriculum development, integration of emerging research findings, and adaptation to evolving industry needs and technological advancements”, said Khumalo.

The Head of the department, Dr Nhlanhla Nsele, said the audit would assist the department to improve its operational activities and was forerunner of an external audit. “We are also preparing for HPCSA audit that is taking place from 26-27 March 2024. We have identified operational and management risks that can negatively affect the students and the staff,” said Dr Nsele. Dr Nsele also said that the risk assessment workshop would help the department to successfully plan and implement control measures to mitigate these risks to ensure optimal delivery of teaching and learning, research, and community engagement.