Internal Auditor Magazine Reblog: Shuttered by Audit Findings

A consulting group and state attorney general’s office reached very different conclusions regarding the potential misuse of Medicaid funds by several nonprofit agencies in New Mexico.

Findings from independent audits have resulted in the closure of 15 New Mexico-based nonprofit agencies that provided behavioral health services in that state, according to Nonprofit Quarterly… However, the New Mexico attorney general’s office has disposed of most of the cases and announced that it did not find a pattern of fraud in 10 nonprofits that had been part of PCG’s audits.

So what happened, and who is in the right? According to Art Stewart, two process steps crucial to the accurate completion of the audit were not followed through, which lead to the consulting group erroneously concluding that Medicaid funds were being misused.

The most telling issues arose during the later stages of the audit:

PCG (Public Consulting Group) and HSD (Human Services Division) did not share the audit’s findings with any of the 15 organizations whose Medicaid payments HSD froze. It also is unclear whether HSD did a systematic check itself to make sure claims that were flagged weren’t mistakenly identified as inappropriate. It is critical that auditors present findings to staff of audited organizations to give them an opportunity to refute findings or address misunderstandings. The damage that can be caused by a failure to do so is evident in this story.

This is a good reminder for all of us here in Audit Land to hew to the process and avoid the temptation of shortcuts. For better or (in this case) for worse, our work has real world consequences.

Want to know more? Check the article out here, or check out all that Ia Magazine has to offer here. Interested in checking out the original audit? Click here.


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NCSL Reblog: SCOTUS in limbo on undecided cases?

“So the million dollar question—other than who will fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat—is what will happen to undecided U.S. Supreme Court cases heard or to be heard this term. The short answer is “It depends and in all instances isn’t entirely clear.”‘

Lisa Soronen explores the potential impact of Justice Scalia’s sudden absence on the Supreme Court to a few major cases currently on the docket. The outcomes of these decisions could have far reaching effects for public sector unions, immigration, voting rights, access to abortion services, and affirmative action policies.

Read more here about the potential impacts, or follow the links below to learn more about the specific cases:

Public Sector Unions


Voting Rights

Abortion Services

Affirmative Action Policies

Curious to learn more about NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures)? Read more here!

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LinkedIn Reblog: How to Deliver a Killer Workplace Presentation that would Rival a Ted Talk

“If you do hold a position where you are front and center and are required to speak to others publicly, then you know how daunting it can be. Even if you aren’t a people manager or leader in the workplace, you may have to stand up at a wedding or network event and speak to an audience. Either way, public speaking is still the number one fear for most people…”

Joshua Miller, the Director of Learning and Talent Development at Paypal, discusses how to tackle one of the working professional’s biggest challenges in this article over at LinkedIn.


Photo courtesy of © Adrian Lindley | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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TEDx Reblog: Career advice for millennials (and really, anyone)

It’s a few months after graduation, which means the luckiest new college grads are knee-deep into internships and entry-level jobs. How to stand out? Business writer Margaret Heffernan suggests: Start by taking a coffee break with your coworkers.

Management thinker Margaret Heffernan has a few pointers for building a career and building stronger, smarter organizations. At the crux? Build relationships, work together, take care of yourself, and never stop learning.

Read more about her perspective on building better employees and organizations here, and be sure to take a few minutes to enjoy her TED talk touching on the benefits of social cohesion in the workplace.


Photo courtesy of © Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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GAO Reblog: Getting Closure on Our Recommendations

“As of November 12, 2015, there were about 4,800 open recommendations and matters for congressional consideration for the 24 largest federal departments and agencies. If implemented, they could result in significant benefits across the federal government.”

When federal agencies implement the recommendations put forward by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), they can increase their savings and revenue, enhance services to the public, and improve federal programming overall.

Read more about the work of our federal counterparts at the GAO blog.

Source: Getting Closure on Our Recommendations

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Insights for auditors

I have been subscribing to a series of newsletters by Harvard professor Bob Behn for many years now. Behn teaches in the Kennedy School of Government. They cover many topics that touch on our audit world: accountability, performance, measures, management. The one-pagers are an interesting quick read on topics about government performance.

Behn has a good eye for the pragmatics that interfere with the best laid plans of policy makers and executives.

His narratives often bring in ideas and experiences we encounter in performance auditing, though he has raised a few questions about the profession. He wrote about one hearing he attended in Olympia in 2008 about a performance audit of the state’s transportation department, produced by contractors Ernst & Young. He learned about specific cost savings identified by the auditors but didn’t get a sense of the agency’s performance, and seemed to have an idea of what was missing:

“For a performance audit, however, what is the equivalent of the financial rules? Who has set what expectations for performance for which the auditors can check”?

It’s clear that Professor Behn comes from a measurement viewpoint, because he seems to want a target or expectation as a basis to gauge performance. The intent of performance auditors is to spot a solution or strategy that improves an organization’s performance, and results. We don’t grade agencies but we show agencies a path to save money, serve more clients, or produce better outcomes. And, as we say, there is always room for improvement…

It would be very difficult for us to produce a reliable grade because the performance of an organization is dependent upon too many variables, external and internal. Economic conditions can affect the costs of goods and services, or the workload in an employment department. Demographic changes, federal rule changes, weather conditions, and even availability of street drugs are just some of the factors that can make government agency outcomes better or worse. These agencies also face internal variables such as turnover in managers or staff, computer system efficacy, agility to change, and sufficiency of resources.

The professor writes about many of these challenges, so perhaps he is taking a second look at his first impressions of performance auditing. Some activities are subject to control, such as financial rules, while others can only be ‘managed’ within circumstances.

Here is a sampling of some of the more recent newsletters, and there are many others worth reading as well.

May 2015: Policy Design & Operational Capacity

November 2014: Avoiding the KPI Quagmire

October 2014: What Performance Mgmt Is and Is Not

August 2014: Designing a Test Worth Teaching To

July 2014: Be Both a Hedgehog and a Fox

June 2014: What Is Really Going On? [ II ]

November 2013: Measurement, Mgmt, & Leadership

October 2103: Punishing the Efficient

Gary Blackmer OAD Director

Gary Blackmer
OAD Director


Header Image: @Stephen Orsillo, Dreamstime Stock Photos


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