Campus News

Internal auditors help departments, units get better at managing risks

Matthew Whitley

UGA is committed to preserving an ethical working culture for faculty and staff.

As part of that commitment, the university’s Internal Auditing Division provides independent, objective assurances that UGA’s financial and operational activities comply with university, University System of Georgia Board of Regents, state and federal guidelines.

The division, which reports to the UGA Office of the President as well as the Office of Internal Audit and Compliance for the University System, annually performs about 35 compliance audits to provide such assurances.
The division also is responsible for conducting investigations, or forensic audits, if there are complaints of fraud.

But the division isn’t just about ensuring that everyone follows protocol. Matthew Whitley, director of the UGA Internal Auditing Division, said the broader goal of auditing is to help academic units at UGA better meet their goals.

Simply put, Whitley said, the Internal Auditing Division’s nine-person staff is focused on risk analysis.

“To me the real value of how we help the university is helping these departments and units get better at managing risk,” Whitley said. “The more we can reduce the risks of various processes in an organization-that’s risk through waste, fraud, abuse or inefficiency-the more it helps the organization meet the goals that it has set.”

Sooner or later, each of the university’s over 200 auditable units gets selected for auditing. Each year, units are chosen for scheduled audits based on a number of considerations including risk factors and the length of time since a unit last was audited.

However, Whitley estimates that 40 percent of his division’s annual audits come through requests from unit and department heads who want to ensure that proper controls are in place and policies are working.

The eagerness for directors to request an audit may have something to do with the type of auditing the division offers.

Whereas an old-fashioned audit, or a compliance audit, would include a standard list of questions for a department to check off, the Internal Auditing Division also offers a different kind of audit, called an operational audit. These audits look for positive ways to improve processes.

“We’re trying to do more operational auditing, which allows us to really structure an audit more toward the needs of the organization we are auditing,” Whitley said. “It gives us a lot more flexibility. We can customize that audit more specifically to their areas of concern and hopefully make the audit more useful to them.”

University departments can request audits from the Internal Auditing Division to help improve efficiency and reduce risk.

To focus more on operational audits, the division has implemented more efficient ways to monitor financial transactions. Whitley said they have implemented a program that uses computer data analytics to pinpoint high-risk transactions for university purchasing credit cards. The program leaves the division staff with more time to help the university improve in other areas.

Whitley said he is pleased that most academic units that undergo audits are accommodating to the Internal Auditing Division staff. The collaboration leads to a more productive audit.

“The cooperation level at UGA is very high,” Whitley said. “Folks look at an audit as an opportunity to get better at what they do.”