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June 25, 1998

Most employees have no cause for panic when Pitt auditors come calling

Unless you've got something to hide, there's no reason to panic if the Internal Audit department schedules your unit for an audit, department staff emphasize.

"Prior to the beginning of each fiscal year, we put together a plan for conducting routine financial audits at an average of 30-35 units that year, in addition to performing five or six audits of information systems," said Susan Stanek, who supervises day-to-day activities of the department's auditors.

"We do establish these audit plans ahead of time, so it shouldn't be alarming if you are selected to be audited in a given year," she said.

Pitt is so big that Internal Audit couldn't possibly examine each school, department and office annually. Instead, Internal Audit tries to revisit major responsibility centers on a rotating basis every few years, while making sure to audit newly created units and others where fiscal controls appear to be weak, Stanek said.

"We don't just look at areas that perform cash transactions," she pointed out. "We look at areas that manage expenditures of University funds, whether or not that's in the form of cash." Depending on a unit's size and complexity, as well as the audit's scope, Pitt internal audits last anywhere from 4-12 weeks.

The process begins with Internal Audit notifying unit administrators by letter of the upcoming audit. Auditors and unit staff discuss the upcoming audit at an "entrance" meeting.

"Some people are apprehensive and a little intimidated at first," Stanek said. "Usually that happens when people haven't been through an audit before. Other people actually view the audit as a positive thing because they see it as a way to make their units more efficient." (Some managers even request audits to gain an independent assessment of their units' operations.) "In either case, we use the entrance meeting to give people a good idea of the scope and objectives of the audit and introduce them to the auditors they'll be working with," Stanek said.

Auditing teams collect data and document office procedures, fiscal controls and other activities. Auditors test control systems' effectiveness in safeguarding Pitt assets, ensuring accurate financial records, and promoting efficiency and adherence to University policies and procedures.

After completing this fieldwork, auditors discuss their findings and recommendations with management and staff of the audited area. Next the audit team issues a draft report summarizing these findings and recommendations. The draft report has limited distribution, and managers of audited units have about two weeks to submit written responses.

Management responses, along with agreed-upon changes, are incorporated into a final report that is distributed to appropriate Pitt administrators. "All audit information is treated as confidential and is reported only to those within the University who need to know," according to Internal Audit.

More details about the audit process and the Internal Audit department are available at the Internal Audit website at:

— Bruce Steele

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