SINGAPORE is rolling out a new post-university certification programme designed for internal auditors next April that will carry a decidedly Asian flavour.

The professional internal auditor programme aims to go beyond the global Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) qualification offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors with an Asian context to its syllabus.

The Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council (SAC) and the Institute of Internal Auditors Singapore (IIAS) inked an agreement to develop the yet unnamed programme yesterday.

"We've added a unique Asian aspect to the programme, teaching about business practices in Asia and governance structures. All these are important for anyone doing business and doing work in Asia," said Danny Teoh, chairman of SAC's Centres of Excellence Subcommittee that is leading the programme.

The programme is targeted at internal auditors with three or more years of experience under their belt, or those aspiring to switch careers to become internal auditors.

It will kick off with a maiden cohort of at least 40. There are about 1,100 CIA holders in Singapore registered with IIAS, said president Eric Lim.

The developed syllabus will also involve input from academia, companies and industry practitioners to give the relevant industry perspective, said Mr Teoh.

Ten internal audit executives from companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Barclays and Novartis form the Internal Audit Work Group that is working with the SAC sub-committee on the syllabus.

Such a programme is welcome at a time when internal auditors of Singapore or Asian companies need to grapple with the complexities and diversity of the Asian market.

"Even in Singapore, almost every company has operations in China or India or Asia-Pacific. Therefore, our people need to be equipped with the ability to audit those environments," said Ng Siew Quan, partner, risk and controls solutions, at PwC.

It is also timely as internal auditors become more important in the move towards better corporate governance.

"Audit committee chairmen are going to expect more, demand more from audit teams in controls and risk management. This is an opportune time for people to level up on competencies and skills," said Mr Teoh.

Embarking on a Singapore qualification will also help internal audit recruiters better identify candidates for higher internal audit management roles.

"The programme signals to recruiters and gives them assurance that they're dealing with a professional who is at a different level," said Antonio Martinez, regional head of internal audit at Novartis Audit.