As an Internal Auditor at The Salvation Army, Corwin Kwong is responsible for overseeing internal controls and ensuring the compliance of the organization’s several service units and social enterprises around the city. He tells A Plus how accountants can make their impact felt, especially within non-governmental organizations
Photography by Anthony Tung
What is your current role and responsibilities? How is it going so far?
At The Salvation Army, I’m responsible for conducting internal audits on our service units, which are made up of educational institutions, social services centres, social enterprises and churches. I work on various types of risk-based audits including financial audit, operational audit, compliance audit and fraud investigation. In addition to offering recommendations on weaknesses identified in internal audits, I also support our service units by providing updates on policies and regulations, common internal and external audit findings and advise on internal controls. These all helps to maintain accountability, transparency, operational effectiveness and efficiency and adherence to laws and regulations. The job is going well so far. I’ve been working at The Salvation Army since 2018 and the role is very rewarding.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role, and why?
I would say auditing skills and communication skills are equally important to an internal auditor. Before I start an audit exercise, I’d usually visit the service unit and have a casual chat with the unit supervisors, telling them about my role, the audit procedures and how I will provide feedback on discrepancies identified. It’s important that people feel comfortable during audits – they shouldn’t think an auditor simply shows up to point out mistakes. An ongoing dialogue help us to resolve conflicts and validate concerns from both our headquarters and service units. It’s most rewarding when the staff members give positive feedback and express their gratitude, and mention how the audit helps to strengthen their internal controls, compliance and streamline their work procedures. The board also appreciates our contribution to organization’s risk management, internal control and governance process.
What inspired you to become an accountant?
While studying for my accounting bachelor’s degree, I had the chance to visit underprivileged families in Cambodia twice through my church to see how NGOs helped them. The two-week trips really struck me how privileged I was, as not many children there even had the opportunity to attend secondary school, let alone university. I wondered how accountants could help, so I asked a church friend. He told me that accounting is a universal financial language spoken across businesses around the world, and that beyond helping companies with their financial reporting and making profit, we can also help NGOs to run more smoothly. It changed my perspective on things and made me want to devote myself to helping people – and to do so through accounting.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far and how did you overcome it?
When I first joined in 2018, things were really tough. Since I had to audit our educational and social services units, I had to understand various types of educational and social services, how they operate and the relevant laws and regulations. It was really intense – I had to spend time in the evening to study rules and regulations in order to familiarize myself with them. It was very challenging making sure that I fully understood the sets of rules stipulated by several government departments across different social and educational services such as the Education Bureau and Social Welfare Department.
Which of the continuing professional development (CPD) courses did you find most helpful in your day-to-day work or in getting you to the next stage of your career?
I appreciate the CPD webinars the Institute has put out in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I enjoyed the financial reporting standards updates. Changes to standards are always lengthy, so this CPD update really helped me to understand developments in a few hours. I also enjoy taking courses related to corporate governance. Good corporate governance isn’t only restricted to large, listed companies. Since NGOs depend heavily on government subventions, support from other funding agencies and public fundraising, sound corporate governance helps to shape stewardship, accountability and an environment that is commitment to ethics and integrity.