(ALGA Repost) Opportunities for Improvement: We Need to Talk

“The Yellow Book addresses communication of audit scope and objective at the beginning of the audit, and audit results at the end, but much communication happens, or should, during the audit.

8.23 Determining the form, content, and frequency of the communication with management or those charged with governance is a matter of professional judgment, although written communication is preferred. Auditors may use an engagement letter to communicate key information early in the engagement.

“Written communication is preferred”? Of course an engagement letter and discussion draft are written, and at the federal level, written is probably preferred, but the federal government is astronomically larger than any local audit office, like Jupiter is to Earth. Working under the general assumption that communications must be written, I think, will limit interaction that is critical to the ultimate success of an audit.

Because you all are auditing in a large variety of jurisdictions, I am cautious about recommending universal practices and just urge you to develop your briefing (and listening) procedures around the who, what, when, where, and why appropriate to your government.”

Gary Blackmer, former director of the Oregon Audits Division, discusses how auditors can communicate most effectively with agency heads and staff in his quarterly ALGA post, with practical suggestions for making introductions, engaging the agency in the audit process, finding context for problems, and making sure that your audit is on point. Read more here.

Accountability and Media Featured

Internal Auditor ReBlog: Let’s talk about feedback

Through frequent conversations with practitioners who are relatively new to the internal audit profession — including both people within and outside my organization — it seems there is a disconnect when it comes to feedback. Manager-level employees tell me they often provide informal feedback to the staff and senior auditors who work with them. Meanwhile, those same managers’ staff and seniors say they don’t receive enough feedback, don’t know if they are “on track,” and don’t know what they are doing well and what they can im​prove. This is where a few simple conversation areas can reap great benefits.

Laura Soileau, a director in Postlethwaite & Netterville’s Consulting Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, discusses the importance of ongoing communication and relationship building in the workplace when delivering – and receiving – feedback (both in formal performance evaluations and day-to-day). She provides a list of useful questions for supervisors and staff to ask each other, and to ask themselves. Maintaining healthy working relationships and keeping the lines of communication open, professional, and productive “should be a shared responsibility.” Feedback is crucial to keeping performance on track, but in this case, the ‘who and how’ is almost as important as the ‘why.’

Read more here!

Accountability and Media Featured

Auditors at Work: (Nearly) Spring Spotlight on Mary Wenger

Once a quarter we will be discussing the wonders of the world of auditing with (you guessed it) actual auditors! Our (Nearly) Spring Spotlight fell on Mary Wenger, long time Deputy Director, and now newly minted Interim Director, at the Oregon Audits Division.

How would you summarize your first six weeks on the job?

‘On the go!’ There is so much to do, and so little time. Many items that normally would occur over several months or at different times have tended to occur all during the same short timeframe. I’m trying to take the time in the middle of all this action to ‘take the pulse’ of the office and the people I work with, and listen.

I thrive on being challenged and like to be busy, but I am looking forward to spring where I can catch up and catch my breath. Working with great people makes it much easier, though.

How did you prepare to take on the tall order of being Interim Director?

In a sense, I’ve been preparing for this for several years in my role as a Deputy Director in the Division.

Over the last several years I have worked with and overseen the functions of the financial team and municipal audits. In order to get up to speed on what was happening on the performance and IT teams, I met with each performance and IT auditor individually. This allowed me to get to know the auditors better and to enhance my understanding of how those teams function.

I also met frequently with Gary Blackmer (former Director at OAD) during his final months here. Working with him and with others in the office allowed me to leverage their knowledge and my transition into the new role has gone well so far. Again, I work with great auditors and leadership who all are driven to do good audit work. They are all helping to make this transition as seamless as it can be.

How long have you been an auditor, and what led you to auditing?

I’ve been an auditor since April Fools’ Day, 1986.

The economy in Oregon was in a downturn when I graduated from college in the 80’s so I begrudgingly looked for work out-of-state. I wanted to get my CPA, and had a choice between a job in Seattle and a job in Sacramento in the Auditor General’s office. I chose Sacramento, and worked there for four years before returning to Oregon and joining OAD in 1990.

Originally, I thought I would eventually move on from auditing to accounting. However, I like auditing! I’m curious, I like challenges, and I like to learn. You are continually learning and you work with other lifelong learners. While there is a process and a structure to our work, it’s not repetitive. Each audit is a whole new learning experience. We work together in a great team environment and we solve problems.

Why is your job important?

Going beyond my role, what we do as a Division is work to improve Oregon’s government and programs. We look at how programs function, how they are managed, and how they impact the public. We audit to determine if programs are operating efficiently and effectively and whether adequate controls are in place to achieve program objectives. Making improvements to those programs helps Oregon better serve the public. The state of Oregon spends billions of dollars each year and our annual financial audit provides the state with our professional opinion about the completeness, accuracy and validity of the state’s accounting information.

As for my job, I don’t consider this a “job” job. It’s something more than that. I like coming in to work every day, even when there is a lot happening. We are always working on ways to improve what we do, while at the same time we are proud of the work we have done.

What do you do when you’re not auditing?

I have a busy household! I’m the ringleader of a circus- I have four kids. I try to keep up at home, travel, read, and explore Oregon. As a family, we like to camp and travel and have visited several states. Last year I was fortunate to travel abroad with my two oldest. Amongst our travels we went to Wengen Switzerland where the Wengers are originally from; breathtaking! I’ve recently started birdwatching; it has been interesting to notice things about those little critters that I never stopped to notice before. I really enjoy moments spent outdoors, away from electronic devices, where I can take a peaceful pause and admire the beauty of nature, even on a cloudy or rainy day!

What do you hope to achieve in your time as Director?

I’m always striving to improve what I do and what the division does so I’ll continue that effort. I think it is important to take the time to reflect, reevaluate, and reprioritize so I’ll continue those efforts as well. In my role, it’s important for me to be in tune with people, to function in the here and now, and to encourage everyone to do the best job we can. I want us to keep doing quality work, and to always strive to do even better.

Final thoughts or words of advice?

I would encourage each of us to focus on being the best communicator we can be. I have found over the years that improved communication, both on the receiving and giving ends, would have resulted in better outcomes. Oftentimes the lack of/too much/wrong type/delayed communication doesn’t produce optimum results. Take a moment and really audit your communication style. Communication involves so much more than the written and oral word. It also involves active and patient listening as well as body language. You’ll know what I mean when you raise four teenagers! We all process things differently, some sequentially and some not, so we really need to be aware of our communication style as well as the individual(s) we are communicating with. I’ll be working on my communication skills for many years to come!

Mary Wenger, OAD Interim Director

Mary Wenger, OAD Interim Director

Auditors at Work Featured