ALL IN A DAY'S WORK
Internal auditors help keep ECU on the right track
May 19, 2016
At the opening of East Carolina University's eighth dental community service learning center last month, you'd be correct to think dentists and architects had a lot to do with the design of the building.
But what about the design of what goes on inside the building - specifically, how do the staff and students operate the facility in a way that meets state, federal and university standards?
That's where internal auditors come in.
"They've been a huge asset in all the things they've done and helped us do," Dr. Gregory Chadwick, dean of the ECU School of Dental Medicine, said about the ECU Office of Internal Audit and Management Advisory Services. "We're actually starting nine dental schools if you look at the way we're set up, and we want to do it right, and they have been very helpful."
Helping departments get organized, follow policies and procedures, meet compliance rules, improve operations and efficiency - these are the jobs internal auditors most frequently do at ECU. May is International Internal Audit Awareness Month.
"Many people want to do what's right, but they don't know what the rules are," said Stacie Tronto, chief audit officer and executive director of internal audit. "If it matters to you, it matters to us."
Her office is an independent function of the university that reports to the chancellor and the ECU Board of Trustees Audit Committee. Internal audit's services include financial, operational, compliance and information technology reviews; management advisory services; investigation of suspected fraud and abuse; education and training on internal control best practices; and serving as a liaison between the university and external auditors.
The office works in accordance with the Institute of Internal Auditors' "International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing."
During the last fiscal year, internal audit completed 56 projects, made 75 recommendations to management, engaged in 141 consultations with the university community and outside agencies, and more.
Areas and departments internal audit worked with included athletics, ECU Physicians pharmacy services, information technology and computing services, and parking and transportation.
"It's like a puzzle, and you have to put all the pieces together and keep the unit on the right track," Tronto said.
Chadwick said auditors play an important role in making sure business, personnel, privacy and other functions are carried out correctly and efficiently.
"It's things that happen behind the scenes to make sure we're in compliance with state and federal laws and also general accounting principles," he said. "They've been very helpful in helping us understand the ECU way of doing things, how the state wants us to do things."
Anne Jenkins, interim executive director for business and financial affairs at the dental school, said specific examples of how auditors have helped include establishing procedures to handle cash at the CSLCs, making sure former employees and students no longer have access to electronic patient information after they leave the school and implementing other internal controls that minimize the risk of fraud and other types of risk.
Auditors, she said, are "very helpful in getting policies and procedures written up and documented. Once they get in there they look at a little bit of everything."
ECU auditors also have worked with the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Elizabeth City State University on various assignments. The work has saved the UNC system an estimated $166,000.
The office does this work with limited means. Other than salaries, internal audit has an annual operating budget of $32,256.
"It's a resource here within ECU that probably people don't appreciate or have exposure to until something is amiss," Chadwick said.
In September, Tronto will present department findings on the use of data analytics to improve auditing at the Association of College and University Auditors' annual conference in Miami.
For more information or to report concerns or knowledge about waste, fraud and abuse, go to
http://www.ecu.edu/audit or call 328-9025.