For every headline about public sector auditors under fire for doing their jobs, there are many others about the good work these auditors do:
- “Internal Audit Finds Risk in Chatham County Public Works’ Payroll Records”
- “Audit Finds Fraud, Illegal Spending at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility”
- “Audit Finds $30 Million in Bookkeeping Errors in Sarasota Pensions”
- “Audit: 25% of City Workers Tested Had Errors in Expense Reports”
- “California Audit Clears L.A.’s Largest Charter School Network of Misspending”
Internal Auditor’s Twitter newsfeed @IaMag_IIA regularly posts articles about the latest findings by public sector auditors. Unfortunately, the feed also frequently includes posts about public sector auditors being treated badly.
According to The IIA’s Global Public Sector Insights report: The Role of Auditing in Public Sector Governance, auditing is a cornerstone of good public sector governance. “By providing unbiased, objective assessments of whether public resources are managed responsibly and effectively to achieve intended results, auditors help public sector organizations achieve accountability and integrity, improve operations, and instill confidence among citizens and stakeholders,” the guidance says.
So why are so many public sector audit functions under siege? Often it’s due to the political agendas so prevalent in the public sector. Auditors who bring issues to light often face retribution, even termination.
In this month’s cover story, several public sector auditors share their horror stories, some anonymously, in the hopes of helping auditors in similar situations. Although it may sometimes seem like there’s no solution, there are actions auditors can take to ward off these issues. According to author Russell Jackson, in many cases “targeted relationship-building and a firm grasp of the agency’s governance structure will go a long way toward avoiding catastrophe.”
It takes courage to be a public sector auditor today; in fact, courage is a prerequisite of being an internal auditor, in general. Auditors in all sectors can feel pressure and face retribution just for doing their jobs. In “Speaking Out," Greg Grocholski, chief audit executive at SABIC, and Dan Williams, senior vice president, Internal Audit, at Darden Restaurants, discuss the challenges of reporting fraud or misconduct at the executive level in the corporate world.
As Grocholski states, “If you are trusted, if you are professional, if you are seen as objective — and not pursuing an agenda — I firmly believe, based on my own experience, that you will have that support when needed.” Those are welcome words to a profession that is constantly challenged to go where others may fear to tread.