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As reengineering, streamlining and downsizing rage across the corporate landscape, the job of the internal audit department frequently becomes harder. With fewer people in place inside and outside the department, ensuring the accuracy of financial information turns into an even greater challenge. At Praxair Inc., a $4 billion industrial gases supplier, the internal audit group has found a way to alter its processes and practices to keep pace with changes in the business world. Director of Audits Robert Brewer has devised a new approach for his organization that gives it a more vital role in a rapidly expanding corporation.
Praxair supplies gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, helium and hydrogen--as well as carbon dioxide, in which it is the world leader. The gases are used by a variety of businesses, including the chemical, steel, electronic and food and beverage industries. For example, "when you open up a bag of potato chips," Brewer says, "it is the nitrogen inside that kept your potato chips from going rancid. When you drink a soda, it's probably our carbon dioxide in there. People have a lot of daily contact with our company even though we're not a household name."
"We are truly a global company," he says. "We get about 50% of our sales outside the United States." Brewer has a staff of 41 located in Danbury, Connecticut, Tonawonda, …