In episode 001, I talked about what happens when employees disappear from an organization. But what happens when your auditors disappear? Should subsequent auditors be concerned? Does it say something about the company’s culture? We’ll discuss this and more in episode 5 of Audit Bites.
#internalauditing #auditors #internalauditors #auditing
Rob Berry 0:27
Welcome to audit bites show where we give you bite sized chunks of information and education to help you excel in your audit career. Join our host, Robert viri as we tackle another tough auditing topic.
Rob Berry 0:55
Hey guys, look at that. You caught me jamming out to the music. I kind of liked that intro music. I don't know what anybody else thinks about it, but I really, really like it. Alright, welcome to episode number five of audit bites. And today's topic, are you still not assessing the aftermath audit bites is the first the very first live show where we talk about auditing topics, and it is available on your favorite podcasting platforms. And guess what? for a small fee, you can actually get CPE for just watching me go to audit bites.com for more information, again, today's topic, are you still not assessing the aftermath? Now some of you are wondering what in the world is he talking about? assessing the aftermath? Well, if you are one of those people who are wondering what I'm talking about, then my friend you missed episode number one. Episode Number one, you see, I talked about what happens when someone just disappears from an organization. And no, I'm not talking about a kidnapping. But I mean, depending on where you live in the world, that could be right. But what happens when there's an employee at the organization who's trying to warn you that something is wrong, and then all of a sudden, they're gone? They're trying to tell you that something is not right. There's something illegal, unethical or immoral that is happening here one day, and they're going to next now in that episode, I talked about a company that was wrapped up in a scandal with the federal government, they terminated a lower level employee. After that the federal government actually investigated and found that those that were above her, not only condoned but sanctioned, the activity and the government find the company a find them a lot of money. And this young lady is now suing for wrongful termination. Now my assertion is that auditors should assess the aftermath and the fallout when someone is fired, or when someone just leaves. You see the terminated woman had no authority in the organization. So my question was, did they terminate the right person? Now in that episode, I gave you some tips on what to look for, in the aftermath. Look at who is gone? Did that person stand to gain something? Or were they simply trying to maintain something? You see the people that the federal government eventually got, they had something to gain, they got bonuses, the person that they terminated did not get any bonuses, she was simply trying to maintain her job. So what I said in that episode is Look who has something to gain versus someone who has something to maintain. That's when you will find who the real culprit is. Go listen to it. There's a whole lot more in there. But I'm not going to rehash the whole thing. So what am I talking about today, when I ask? Are you still not assessing the aftermath? Well, what I'm talking about today is something well, a little bit different from that episode. You see, all we're talking about today is what happens when auditors are the ones who actually disappear. They just hear one day, and they're gone. The next. And the question that you want to ask is, who is the real problem? You see, auditors have a very tough job. you're asked to evaluate what's happening in an organization. But that also is the same organization that pays your salary. So what happens when you find things that they don't agree with? What happens when you find things that are illegal, immoral and unethical? You see, in these situations, well, certain things typically happen to those auditors who find things. You might see that their authority is oftentimes undermined. Oftentimes their budget is taken away, staff is reduced. And sometimes yes, sometimes auditors just disappear at a snap. But in situations like those, the question that I ask
Unknown Speaker 4:59
Rob Berry 5:00
is the real problem. So in order to answer that question, today, we're going to talk about the Office of internal auditing at Western Washington University. Now, let me just say before I get started, I'm not here to make fun of anyone or to disparage anyone. These are stories that are readily available in the news and we have a certain set of facts that we're going to discuss. And when I say we're talking about the auditor's there, we're not talking bad about the auditors. Not at all. we're presenting a case that I'd like for you all to think about as internal auditing professionals. So you guys ready for it? What I'm going to do is take a pause for the moment and recognize some people that are here. We're on about a seven second delay. So what I want you guys to do is if you're ready for this, type into the chat, I am ready. Let me know that you're ready to hear this story. And now I know we've got a lot of here from Nigeria, man, it's what time is it for you, man you always hear I appreciate you being here. But do you sleep people ask me that a lot. Now I'm asking you. Now Benita Lee Dee Lee is here and she says auditors have one of the toughest white collar jobs, respect. Respect me. I mean, our job is very, very tough. And we're going to talk about some of the reasons why I think it's tough and some of the things that we have to go through and some of the things that we need to be ready for. And pozo is him pozo says that she is ready to hear the story. Now. You guys hear me say this a lot. But it's because a lot of this stuff is unbelievable. But you're gonna hang on tight for this one. This is a wild ride after this is over with send this one to all of your friends because this one is. This is unbelievable. Like, anyway, just truly on believable. Alright, who Sam is here, and he says, I am ready. cuddly katlego hopefully I said your name right? If you could connect with me on LinkedIn, send me a voicemail pronunciation of your name. I think getting people's names right is very important. It's something I like to do. And if I'm saying that wrong, let me know. He says he's ready. See, I knew it was pretty late for you over there, man. Well, not really. I guess what? 6pm So yeah, not too bad. Alright guys, here we go. Diving right into this story. And it's a barn burner, as they say in the southeastern region of the US. Alright, so what you're looking at is a screen print from the online newspaper in Washington. And if you read the headline, it says culture of fear at Western Washington University after auditors fired prompting lawsuits and resignations. So let's just talk about this. The Internal Audit Office at Western Washington University is tasked with investigating a lot of things like much of us are, but it became the epicenter of firings, lawsuits, and even a police escort from a board of trustee meeting. This was after one former auditor sued, claiming that he was pushed out over an audit of a former president's travel. The university settled with this individual to the tune of $216,000. Now we're going to call this person auditor number one. auditor number two, his successor. Well, earlier this month, I think that was last month now. Anyway, is now suing the university as well for alleged retaliation and wrongful termination. You see after auditor number one, number two, or number two is claiming that she was fired after completing contentious audits, some of them surrounding the use of ghost courses and some other things that I'll talk about shortly. Now, so that's two chief auditors that have left the organization. Shortly after that, the remaining auditor also resigned. Now the remaining auditor actually talked to the newspaper and said that there was that the terminations created a and I quote, culture of fear.
Rob Berry 9:32
Now it gets even better. A longtime administrator in the organization who actually confided in the auditors that something was not right. He actually retired after seeing all of the shenanigans. So let me recap just really quickly. You had auditor number one who was the chief auditor who brought up some things that well, really weren't that popular. He's no longer there are a number two had to contentious audits. And now auditor number two is not there. Another auditor that worked for auditor number two saw the shenanigans and said, you know what I'm leaving this place, spoke to the newspaper and said that he created a culture of fear. And a longtime employee who confided in the auditor that something was wrong, decided to retire. And that sounds like one big cluster. You know, what, if you ask me, but here's what I want to do. I want to ask you guys, from what you've heard so far, what do you guys think about this situation? And again, we're on about a seven second delay. So what I'm going to do is go back to some of the comments and read you guys's comments and give you a chance to type in what you think about what I just said. so far. Nicola is here. Hey, my friend was having a cola says she is ready. Ready? Ready. Ready. Now puzzle as a burning question. Was that a voluntary or an involuntary retirement pose? Oh, you my friend. Great otter. We'll get to that probably a little bit later. This so many other questions that I would have to pose. Oh, and I know you're probably sitting there just typing away and talking about Oh, there's more. There's more. But yeah, there is more. Heather says she's a little late. But here, Heather. Hopefully you heard the synopsis that I just gave him the story that we're about to dive right into. And Heather, why are you late? Now? I'm just kidding. I am just joking. By the way, Heather, have you gotten your shirt yet? I'm showing that it should be there on the 14th Heather wants some merch if you guys want to see some good audit merch, go to my website that audit guide.com I have shirts that say I love audit. I love compliance. I have mask. I have stickers. I have other snarky audit shirts available for you guys. And Benita is saying a cluster. You know what? Yes, it is. Yes, a big cluster turd so far. Okay. So I see that we're up to speed and everybody understands what we're going to talk about. Now. Let's go into a few more details of this particularUnknown Speaker:
case.Rob Berry:tor, number one, was hired in:Rob Berry:ector number two was hired in:Rob Berry:
and review this area. I actually read that report, this consulting firm confirmed what the auditor said. So let me just stop right here for one moment, whenever you see an organization come in and hire someone else to come in and review the work that the auditor has done, most likely, it's because they are opinion shopping. Because if your auditors are truly professionals, their credential, they've been doing the work for a certain period of time. They know what they're doing. If they shown you the evidence, if their work papers, were good enough to show you the evidence, why do you need a third party to come in and tell you the same thing that you've seen with your own eyes? Now, that reminds me, some of us are horrible at work papers. So if you're horrible at work papers, go get my book, creating wonderful work papers. Yes, I wrote a book about doing work papers. I also have a course dedicated to teaching you how to do better work papers, want to know more about it. Email me all the details on my website for that course yet. I'm doing it next month for a private client. And it's been battle tested a few times. But after we get it through this client, we're going to release it to the public again. So it's called creating wonderful work papers. So again, my question is, why do you need a third party to come in and review something that the audit has already done? If you saw the work papers yourself? Because you I mean, either you reported the statistics wrong or you didn't. Now, back to what I said earlier, this third party actually confirmed what the auditor has found. How do I know because I read the third party's report. This newspaper in Seattle did a great job of obtaining actual documentation. So let me go back to you guys really quick before I move forward, pause or say says interesting to consider reasons for gap in a row being filled. Some organizations claim budgetary reasons, but it could be to fraudsters going rogue. My man who saw is the man, many boards lack the experience and qualifications. So this is why Yeah, maybe? I don't know. And I'm assuming you're saying this is why they hire another third party to come in and look at what the auditor's have just done. Some things are just kind of black and white, you know. But but but it got worse for audit director number two, after another audit occurred. And let me say the more serious audits you do, the more your job could be in jeopardy. If you especially are in a senior role in an audit department. This is the stuff they don't tell you for telling the truth, you could actually get in trouble that makes no sense. But again, it got worse for audit director number two, after she reported on a possible financial aid fraud. So let's dig into this one. The registrar told the auditors at the university that there was possibly a fraud with ghost courses. In other words, courses that weren't real courses. That's pretty bad, right? Anytime anytime you put ghost in front of something you know, it's got to be bad. Ghost employee ghost courses. ghosts. I mean anything Space Ghost? I don't know. Casper the Friendly Ghost. Well, okay, Casper the Friendly Ghost, right? But Slimer and Ghostbusters wasn't a friendly ghost. Until the second Ghostbusters I guess. Maybe ghost isn't bad all the time. No, seriously seriously. The Office of internal auditing found that even that was pretty true. So here's what the auditor said in their report. They concluded and I quote, that faculty and staff engaged in these activities for the benefit of students without considering the financial or academic implications of their actions. And then they actually categorize this as fraud. So the they had created this course for students. You know what, before I tell you exactly what they did, let's, let's continue on to some of this first. So now, here's what the university did. When the auditors released this report, where they said what I just quoted, the Assistant Attorney provided legal counsel to the university and disagreed with what the auditor said, and sent an 11 page memo to the auditor's office. Now, audit director number two is also suing the university and in her complaint, she said that the Assistant Attorney attempted to dissuade her from reporting this fraud if she caught it, I'm gonna say alleged fraud to the US Department of Education Office of Inspector General. So what happened was audit director number two, this audit found some things that she considered to be fraudulent and decided to report them to the Department of Education's Inspector General. Okay.Rob Berry:it director that was hired in:Rob Berry:
He was only there for less than a year. Three years later, they hired audit director number two, she had two very contentious audits, one was actually proven that she was accurate in what she was saying, because they hired a third party to come in and review the work that she had done. Think that's comical. But anyway, the second one was some information that came directly from an insider, someone who worked for the organization. And well, from the evidence that I've read, there is smoke, a lot of smoke, I read a lot of emails and a lot of other things. And she was given a choice, either resign or take some money. So that's where we are. Now allow us is something is wrong, that straightforward. pozo gave her guess she walked out without accepting either offer. Well, I mean, you know, with the second one, she didn't really have to accept it. I mean, termination is termination. Right. But But yeah, I get your point. You know, I had to poke fun at you pose. Oh, is that my man who saw him again? Yes. Who som says did the charter support the audit director to report the federal government when needed? Um, I don't know. That's a good question. But do you really care if the federal government has allowed saying if you see certain things you should report it? Now Laurie is Hey, Laurie here again. Lori says My guess is they signed the agreement for the money. Well, my friends, I like those guesses. I like those guesses. So let me say pozo, you were kind of close. She refused the settlement. So she was terminated. And in her lawsuit, she is seeking economic and emotional damages, and reinstatement of her job, and expungement of negative comments from her personnel file. And let me just say right here, I understand. You want your money, and all that other good stuff, and you want this stuff expunged from your file. But why would you want your job back? I'm not criticizing you. I'm really just asking the question, because here's what this says to me. audit director number one left under similar circumstances, and it was a totally different president, their audit director number two, you left under some bad circumstances under an entirely new president. And then someone who actually worked in the organization in the administrative arm left, because they were upset because they told you the truth. You investigated, and I'll get to what they said late well, nevermind, let me just get to that here. That registrar heard what had happened and retired early after more than 25 years of service, and talked to the newspaper and said and I quote, it was disheartening that another good effective professional was dismissed in such a surprising fashion. He also said and I quote, fixing what the audit came up with is not difficult. It means that good hard working, honest people made a mistake that are correctable or I'm sorry, made mistakes that are correctable, so now, you really want to go back to a place that has told you and shown you that something is wrong in the culture. And again, I'm not saying that everyone there is corrupt. So some people from that university may say How dare you call us corrupt? You guys know how I feel about how dare you people listen to the words that I'm saying? audit director number one left under contentious conditions. You audit director number two left under circumstances that weren't that great. A third person decided to retire and say that it's upsetting and disheartening that a good person you a good person left under those circumstances, something is wrong in the culture there. All right. I'm going to leave that there and continue You on there was also another auditor who was working there and who had been working there for 10 years, that person left in May of this year. It does not appear according to the newspaper that they have replaced that position, either. So my friends, let me go back to you guys. So Heather said I would have quit and then sue them for wrongful termination. That's what she's doing. Heather. Yeah. Now is this who saw him again? Yeah. So um, you're showing up as LinkedIn user. So I'm cheating over here on my phone. So I can see that it's you. If you're not connected with me on LinkedIn, and you're watching this connect with me on LinkedIn, especially my audit professionals. You guys know I love you. Oh,Rob Berry:
you Psalm says he would have done the same thing. Heather says, Why would you want to go back? Right, Heather, right. Because here's the thing, there probably a lot of good people that work there. Because normally, even when you see a corrupt culture, it's usually only a few people, a minority of the organization, and many of them have power and authority, and they make it bad for everyone. So anyway, one day, remind me to tell you guys about the story of when I worked with someone who had worked for WorldCom. After the collapse, she was the nicest sweetest person ever. But she was afraid that that organization would taint her ability to get a job. So anyway, Laurie says good, I assume the worst, but glad that I was wrong, but I agree with Heather, why would you want to go back? Now? A lot of says that kind of job. I don't need it again. You can't do that. Man. You can't inject comedy into my show. I got to keep a serious face for the podcast replay. Okay, seriously, let me see if I can read this. For the podcast listeners who don't get to see it. Lava says that kind of job. I don't need it again. reinstate then quit again. Awesome. That's awesome. Okay, okay. Okay. Okay. So now, here's what we're gonna do, I'm going to give you guys three things that you should look for, if you're a brand new auditor in an organization, especially if you're a brand new audit director, three things that you should look for. And then if we have enough time, because I don't want to keep you guys too long. But then if we have enough time, I'll show you one of the emails that call this course of freaking ghost caught anyway, whatever. Alright, so when your auditors disappear at an organization, if you're a new auditor coming in, or if you're bored, bored, you should be watching this show seriously, you get the real deal so that you understand audit committees, you should be watching and listening to this show. There are a lot of things that I'm going to say that most people just won't say. All right, so let's talk about that. When auditors disappear, first thing you need to do is check prior reports. So as you step into an audit department look and see what were some of the things that they audit in the past. Look at the results, look at management responses to the things that happened in the audit reports of the past, I can tell you some people who look at audits that I've done in the past at organizations, they're going to be like, Huh, and then at some organizations, you can see how management responded in a very good fashion. And you're going to be like, Oh, that was pretty good. Awesome. And then in other organizations will, what? Check those prior audit reports, because they give you a clue to the kind and quality of audits performed. But it also gives you a clue to management in these organizations. Again, one of the worst audits that I've ever done in my life was at an organization that was really, really good. I mean, one of the best one organizations I've ever worked for. And when you look at the way that they responded and the way that the issues were handled, as a matter of fact, we work together to make sure that the things were cleaned up. And that's the way it should be auditors and management should work together. Because your goal is to improve the organization as a whole. There is no us against them. But when you see environments where there isn't us against them.Unknown Speaker:
Most of the time, it's not going to be auditors who are the antagonistic ones. How Why do I say that? I'm glad you asked. What do the auditors have stand to gain or to lose? If we write a report this truthful, what do we stand to gain or lose? And really, we write a report with lies in it. What do we stand to lose or gain? nothing unless it's proven that we're liars and then you lose your job. But if factually what you're writing in a report is true, then what's the issue for you? So Number one, when auditors disappear from an organization like that, check the prior audit, check the prior reports that give you some clue as to the kind and quality of audits that they've done. Second thing you want to do is look at the audit committee contact and engagement. I said earlier that audit director, number one was upset at this organization, because he tried to go to an audit committee meeting that he thought should have been public and it was private. Okay, well, if you work for a government agency, most of your audit committee meetings are public, under unless certain conditions are met, we throw that caveat out. So when you look and see that the audit committee meeting minutes, only a short little paragraph, and there's no meeting them? What's happening at those audit committee meetings? Is that audit director being stifled in what he is delivering to the audit committee? Is he being told he or she being told keep your audit committee update to one minute? Hmm, that should be a red flag that something is wrong, because you've checked the prior reports. Now you see this one bad audit report. Now you're checking the audit committee meeting minutes. And you're saying wait, you guys didn't even talk about this. Because notice, earlier in this story, audit director number one accused the president of changing accused, I don't know if it's true or not. But he was the president of changing his Audit Committee agenda. He had something he wanted to talk to them about. And he was stifled and silenced. So if you're going into an audit shop, actually, during your interview, if you're a chief auditor, you need to be asking to look at these things. So that you can understand the culture within which you are about to immerse yourself in check the prior audit reports, look at the audit committee contact. Now my third thing that I'm going to say what happens when audit has disappeared, the things that you should be worried about and concerned about, enquire with the clients. And I'm not talking about the other executive members of management, you've already talked to them during the interview, you've met them, the clients that the audit department directly dealt with, talk to them. If you notice, in this particular story, it was an audit client, the registrar in this organization that went and reported something to the audit director. That seems strange. Why? Because he trusted that that audit director would actually look at it objectively, that audit director found that something was indeed wrong. But then what happened? The management at that organization came down on that audit director for reporting the truth that was actually reported by a fellow colleague, a non audit colleague. So what does that tell you? That tells you something strange, that worker should have been able to go to his or her direct supervisor who was a member of executive management and say, Hey, something's not right. This doesn't look right, we need to look into this. They trusted the auditor more than they did the member of management. Now, here's what happened after that. That auditor was presented with two choices, either resign and take this payout, or you will be terminated. Now, the employee who reported this thing to the auditor, was so upset that he decided to retire early, after 25 years of service, enquire with the direct audit clients that that auditor or those auditors have been dealing with in that organization. That's when you will hear the real story. That's when you will hear the truth. I can tell you there are countless number of times that I've had audit clients want to meet with me, just to discuss some issues. They wanted to meet with me outside of work so that it was private, they've actually told me that they feared for their safety. In my safety. I don't necessarily mean physically, but I mean their job. I've had some slight little envelopes under my door. There's nothing worse than walking into your office on a Monday morning and you stumble over a little brown envelope that someone has slid under your door. So go talk to the audit clients and figure out what were the quality and quantity of audit engagements that were occurring before you got there. So audit bites,Rob Berry:
your number one show about live show about ordering. It is a podcast to send this to all your friends, you can see the visual podcast on my website that that order guy.com or audit bikes calm. Probably by midnight tonight, I'll have this episode up and ready to be viewed on my website. Or you can come back to my LinkedIn profile and see it or if you just want to hear me because I know guys, sometimes it's hard to look at this face, right? Sometimes it's hard. If you just want to hear me go to your favorite podcasting platform. We're on Spotify and all those platforms. So I want to know, what do you guys think about this case that we've just presented? What would you have done? If you were presented with this situation? Some of you guys are typing some things. So let's go back pose. Oh, say Is there a guy going to offer board training in the future? Asking for a friend? pose? Oh, I cannot confirm or deny you know what, here's the thing. You wouldn't really take it from me. No company would hire me to do more training because you will get real stories like this. Now I take that back, let me say this. companies who really want board training probably would hire me because you would get real stories like this. And Leslie is here, Leslie says it's hard to change the us versus them mentality. 100% Leslie, but think about it. In this story, it truly wasn't an us against them, really. Because you had people who work for the organization, who were going to the auditors to tell the audit is what had happened. So it was kind of in US and US, against them, the higher ups because this stuff is wrong, and we want to see it fixed. That's the sad part about it. You have individuals in your organization who blow the whistle all the time. What happens though, they are retaliated against for telling the truth. Why do you think we have to have non retaliation policies in organizations? If it never happened, we wouldn't have a policy speaking out against it. It's happened. alaba says when quote when when the culture is the corporate, it's difficult to add any value. The problem is that it's difficult to know all these bad cultures from the outside. Exactly. Which is where my three points came into play, though, right? You look at those things beforehand, they will give you some clue. auditors need to be more discerning. Because these things here when you look at them, like for example, audit director, number two wants the job back, I get it. You get good pension benefits and all kinds of things. I probably sue for more money. Seriously, why would you want to put your physical and mental health at stake in an organization that has shown you through two different presidencies, there's somewhere there's some corrupt element that you haven't gotten to yet that still there? Who som again, says I was talking to an audit committee recently, and the members told me they don't have any experience, then they asked how can we make sure we don't harm the internal audit function?Unknown Speaker:
I asked.Rob Berry:
We do to be what do we do to be knowledgeable, really respected these guys, because not many audit committees would admit that they don't have any experience? Yeah. Well, and here's the thing, too. I will tell you, I have trained audit committees in the past. I have certain presentations and you know, seminars where I lay out here the expectation for you as an audit committee member. Here's some of the questions. I remember, I had this one audit shop that this one audit shop that I was the chief auditor of. And I did a presentation to the audit committee a work, I'm sorry, a work group session, where I told them all the things that they needed to ask me, here are all the things you need to be asking me write them down. And if I can't answer these questions with, then you know that there's a problem. And so they begin to ask me those questions. Oops, sorry, I got a little tongue tied there. But yeah, audit committees need training to, there are certain things that they should be on the lookout for in the organization as a whole, from the audit department as a whole. And you should be training them on the things that they should be looking for. You should be open and honest in your training to them. So you guys, check this out. Now. If you like audit bytes, you'll probably love my bootcamp. It's called the ask better questions. Boot Camp, it is nine hours, nine weeks, 18 hours of CPE. It is about how to ask questions while auditing. It's called the ask better questions, boot camp. Want to know more about it, go to that audit guy.com backslash boot camp. Again, I love it when you guys comment because I will look at the comments and I will start to give away certain CPE E's. Here's the other thing. If you really like this show, go to my website and sign up for our mailing list. Sign up to keep in touch with us sign up to keep in touch with us. Why because well I give away CPE why because I give away valuable audit information. I'll shoot you an article every once in a while where I summarize a topic kind of like I did here today on the audit bites show. So a In our bytes, episode number five, are you still not assessing the aftermath? What happens when auditors disappear? Three things I want you to do check the prior reports. Number two, look at the audit community Audit Committee communications. And number three, enquire with your audit clients. They're going to tell you what they thought of the past auditors. They're going to tell you what happened when they reported something and it got investigated. They're going to tell you the real story that is if they trust you. So now Are there any topics you guys want to see me cover? shoot me an email better yet? If you have a news story about internal auditing that you'd like my take on? Shoot me that news article as well as what your takeaway was on it? And who knows? Maybe I'll bring you on as a special guest. Alright, sounds like fun, huh? So thank you guys for coming out. If you liked the show, audio bytes.com This has been episode number five. Are you still not assessing the aftermath? Until next time.Rob Berry:
Thank you for joining us on this episode of audit flights. If you want to do more, see more, be more, check out our website that areca.com where you will find quality training. audit merged. Yes, we have had shirts and other apparel as well as pairs copies of this podcast and the Friday frausto podcast www.att.com Thanks for joining us.