Please Give Local Auditors Some Respect

September 26, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

I’ve seen it on TV shows several times. An official with a federal agency swoops in on the local police force or investigative agency and essentially takes over a major investigation, showing a fair amount of arrogance all the while in the full belief that the locals simply do not know what they are doing. I had hoped this couldn’t happen in real life, but I’ve been proven wrong.

While attending a session this week at the Association of Government Accountants’ Internal Control and Fraud Prevention Training Conference, Mark Funkhouser, director of the Governing Institute and former mayor and city auditor of Kansas City, Mo., described an incidence that occurred while he was city auditor that exemplified this federal one-upsmanship. In the early 1990s, he was investigating an illegal hazardous waste dump run by the city of Kansas City. A few weeks later, some Environmental Protection Agency investigators came to investigate the site and asked what Funkhouser’s office was doing. Although he said he was conducting an audit on the site, the federal officials considered him a “corrupt, lackadaisical local official that obviously couldn’t find first base” and demanded the records on the case, rather than collaborating with his office. “The guys blew in from Washington and assumed that I was an idiot and a rube.”

As it turned out, the city was fined, the site was cleaned up and the city eventually built a legal hazardous waste site. Still, better collaboration between the federal and local officials in a case like this could have been more productive. Local auditors have a sense of the local environment and know who the key people are involved in an investigation. A team approach is always the better way to go.

Funkhouser joined Vermont State Auditor Tom Salmon at the conference to discuss how partnerships between fraud, waste and abuse investigators at all levels can prove beneficial. More information on their presentation will be included in an article in the November Single Audit Information Service.

How has collaboration on an audit helped your organization?

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