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Saturday, July 05, 2008

New Internal Auditor position

There is a lot to like about the new Internal Auditor position that the Board will create this week.

This position answers a dire need.

This position reports to the Board.

This position has a clear mission.

This position has the authority needed to fulfill the mission.

If you weren't aware of this development you should definitely check out these documents:
School Board Action Report
Internal Audit Policy G23.00
Internal Audit Charter

Now, this is wonderful... but

* this position should have been created five years ago when it was recommended by the Fiscal Integrity Committee following the budget fiasco

* there was no apparent stakeholder engagement - internal or external - (at least not in the last five years) involved in any part of this effort

* there wasn't any public or media communication around this effort

* it's unclear what sort of audits the Internal auditor will conduct. Does the scope extend to performance audits? To compliance audits?

Still, let's not quibble. This represents a great leap forward in transparency, accountability, and governance. It's a strong positive for the District and the community.

9 comments:

Michael said...

WHERE HAVE YOU PEOPLE BEEN????? You claim to be so tapped in to what is going on in the school district, yet you don't know that the new internal auditor position was created, and a person was hired, LAST AUGUST, and that they have been working on establishing a risk-based plan to address some of the most critical financial and compliance areas of the district. And lest anyone think the Board had anything to do with it (aside from approval), he is the one that developed the audit charter.

I know I sound like I'm whining, and I apologize. However, why should there have been any external stakeholder engagement in creating this position? Why does the school board have to put everything out for discussion? The Board had to approve the creation of, and hiring for, the position.

And, internal stakeholder engagement? That would have consisted of various department heads, school principals, and program managers trying to claim some sort of exemption from the position's scrutiny.

The key here is that the culture of the school district needs to change dramatically from one of "the rules don't apply to me," to one where everyone follows the rules in place, or there are consequences. As it is now, people can circumvent the rules with an "ends justifies the means" attitude or excuse, and nobody, and I mean NOBODY, gets punished (unless of course you are caught stealing. Then the district just pays you to go away).

I like how you end the article Mr. Mas, as this is a wonderful development for the school district. I hear that some high-and-mighty people have already felt the effect of having the internal auditor look into their business. But please be sure to become more familiar with the role of an internal auditor before you develop overly-exuberant expectations for a one-person staff that may never be met.

Charlie Mas said...

michael asks a great question: "why should there have been any external stakeholder engagement in creating this position?"

The simple answer, of course, is because the District is a government entity doing the public's business. Either you accept the idea of working with the public in the conduct of the public's business or you don't.

It is inconsistent to chide people for not knowing what the District is doing while insisting that it isn't necessary for the District to tell them what it is doing. If I didn't know that the District had hired an interal auditor several months ago - although I could see that the internal auditor wrote the Board Action Report so I knew that the person was already in place - because the District didn't really announce that they had created the position and hired someone into it. I don't know - and cannot be reasonably expected to know - what they haven't told me.

Perhaps the other contributors to the blog were aware of the internal auditor, but no one has written about it here. Not Beth or Mel or michael himself.

I certainly hope no one thought that the Board had written the charter. I didn't imagine that anyone would.

I don't believe I hold any "overly-exuberant expectations" for the internal auditor and don't imagine that I inspired any with my post.

dan dempsey said...

Maybe after we get all the financial aspects squared away, the board can try following their own policies in the area know as Academics.

reader said...

Could anyone explain what the internal auditor has been focusing on to date? It is time to put to rest all the concerns that the special education monies are being poorly utilized.

Michael said...

"It is inconsistent to chide people for not knowing what the District is doing while insisting that it isn't necessary for the District to tell them what it is doing."

I don't agree. Does the District have to consult the vocal minority (although very well-intentioned) every time they decide to create a position, or hire a key executive? No. The Board and Management have the authority to hire and fire as necessary. Although I agree with your statement that "Either you accept the idea of working with the public in the conduct of the public's business or you don't," I would posit that "working with the public" has its limitations, or else the District would have to run every individual vendor payment through a public meeting, or every paycheck. The authority of the Board and management is derived from the authority the constituents of the District convey through them by electing Board officials (of course, state law defines the authority, and the limits of that authority). With the authority delegated to them, they conduct the business of the District.

My comment on overly-exuberant was meant as a caution, and not to imply that you conveyed any such expectations. It's just that most people don't have any real clue as to what a real audit involves. So, best to temper any expectations, especially in an entity with the culture of the Seattle School District.

Obviously I was aware of the new internal auditor, but as I am not a "contributor" to this blog (in terms of starting a blog thread) I would not be in a position to write about it except in a response to a post such as yours.

My understanding of what the internal auditor has been doing to date is gaining an understanding of the District and its culture (since he came from the outside), conducting risk assessments, interfacing with all the different auditors that have been onsite this year, and putting together the audit charter while trying to navigate the political waters of the District so that he could obtain the authority he is requesting. Go to the meeting. Meet him.

reader said...

" Go to the meeting. Meet him."

Michael, what meeting, when, where?

Thank you.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I had been vaguely aware this was occurring but I, like Charlie, thought it was long overdue given the need stated by the CAICEE report.

I don't hold out much hope unless this person gets to work independently AND is given all the information requested in a timely manner. This is usually not the case in the district but maybe the word has been sent out from the top that everyone has to cooperate.

I am more interested at this point in what investigation the State Auditor may be doing. I have heard from reliable sources that he is taking a look at a couple of areas in the District. As Michael points out, there are audits and there are audits so I have no idea what the scope is only that it is likely to focus on Facilities. I also don't know how long it might take.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I had been vaguely aware this was occurring but I, like Charlie, thought it was long overdue given the need stated by the CAICEE report.

I don't hold out much hope unless this person gets to work independently AND is given all the information requested in a timely manner. This is usually not the case in the district but maybe the word has been sent out from the top that everyone has to cooperate.

I am more interested at this point in what investigation the State Auditor may be doing. I have heard from reliable sources that he is taking a look at a couple of areas in the District. As Michael points out, there are audits and there are audits so I have no idea what the scope is only that it is likely to focus on Facilities. I also don't know how long it might take.

Charlie Mas said...

Ah. Let me be perfectly clear.

I wrote: "It is inconsistent to chide people for not knowing what the District is doing while insisting that it isn't necessary for the District to tell them what it is doing."

The key word here is "tell" - not consult, tell. People can know about things if they are told about them. People don't need to consulted to acquire the knowledge, they merely need to be informed to acquire the knowledge.

As for the suggestion that "I would posit that "working with the public" has its limitations, or else the District would have to run every individual vendor payment through a public meeting, or every paycheck." the fact is that the Board does actually does this. It is called the warrant report and it is part of the consent agenda at every Board legislative meeting. You can review it, and, if you choose to do so, address it in your public testimony. It includes every payment to a vendor and every paycheck except those made through direct deposit. I know this because it appears in the agenda. No one consulted me on it, they only had to make mention of it.