This paper proposes a “micro-level” analysis of the way in which internal auditors express role conflicts in their day-to-day practice and how they perceive, manage, and resolve them. From this perspective, I analyze real-life experiences described by 42 interviewed internal auditors. Using a theoretical lens specifically designed for this purpose, I highlight the complexity and magnitude of the role conflicts they experience during the internal audit process, along with the strategic and dynamic coping processes they mobilize, while remaining concretely grounded in their specific context. Thus, this study makes an original contribution to the development of new knowledge on internal auditing and concludes that internal auditors tend to lack independence and audit committee members often exercise disturbingly weak power (on the internal audit function), as compared to the top managers. Accordingly, this paper points to the difficulty of applying an idealized conception of independence and purist governance principles to practice. It also questions the appropriateness of considering internal auditing as a meaningful independent assurance device in operating the corporate governance “mosaic” (Cohen, Krishnamoorthy, and Wright 2002).

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