Can internal audit functions improve firm operational efficiency? Evidence from China

Ying Chen, Bin Lin, Lizhen Lu*, Gaoguang Zhou

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of internal audit function (IAF) quality on the operational efficiency of Chinese firms.

    Design/methodology/approach: The authors use regression models with a sample of Chinese listed companies to test their research hypotheses.

    Findings: The authors find that IAF quality is positively associated with firm operational efficiency. The result is unchanged after correcting for endogeneity via the instrumental variable method and using an alternative measure of firm operational efficiency. The authors show that IAF competence improves firm operational efficiency, but the relationship between IAF independence and firm operational efficiency is insignificant. Additionally, they find that IAF quality can only significantly improve firm operational efficiency in the presence of effective corporate governance at the firm level and strong institutions at the province level. Using path analysis, the authors find that an IAF can improve firm operational efficiency directly or indirectly by promoting firm internal control quality.

    Practical implications: The findings of this study suggest the need for a balance between IAF competence and independence to achieve the goals of IAF. Additionally, the authors study suggests that the effectiveness of IAF is contingent on corporate governance and market-based institutions.

    Originality/value: The study’s findings contribute to the burgeoning literature on the relationship between IAF and firm operational performance and deepen the authors’ understanding of the role of IAF in an emerging economy whose government plays a major role in promoting and enforcing internal audits. The study also empirically support the Internal Audit Governance Maturity Model proposed by the Institute of Internal Auditors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1167-1188
    Number of pages22
    JournalManagerial Auditing Journal
    Issue number8
    Early online date12 Sept 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2020

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Corporate governance
    • Internal audit function
    • Operational efficiency
    • External institutions


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