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Reason 5 - To prevent data breaches

There's been a lot of news coverage in recent years about audits in the state of Utah. While the public may wonder if the audits are worth the trouble (and money), Utah auditors are actually saving taxpayers money in addition to reducing corporate waste, corruption and fraud and holding our leaders and corporations fiscally responsible and accountable.

Here are the top five reasons an audit has helped the state and could help your business.

Discovering fraud

The No. 1 reason to request an audit is to discover fraud, especially considering the current economic environment we all live in. For example, an audit of Utah’s liquor control agency discovered that the agency has been "incompetently managed." The audit recommends that the state consider criminal charges against its former director after years of bid-rigging, falsifying financial documentation and artificially splitting invoices — all violations of state law.

Another report by the Utah State Auditor's Office in Feb 2010 discovered improper spending by the Garfield County School District. The headline from the 36-page report is the identification of "improper and potentially fraudulent payments of over $88,000 to the former business administrator of the Garfield County School District" and "questionable payments of over $37,000 to the superintendent and others."

If you don’t think fraud is occurring in your organization because you have honest employees, think again. You are probably losing up to 7 percent of revenues due to fraud, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Do yourself a favor and request an audit. It could save you money.

Preventing fraud and improving internal controls

Auditors are internal control experts, helping organizations ensure controls are in place to prevent inappropriate or fraudulent activities. According to a Utah legislative audit released in January 2012, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control needs an internal audit division.

This audit took an expanded look at the department after a May 2011 audit found a $300,000 loss at a contracted retail outlet in Eden, Weber County. "We found that the problems associated with the Eden Packaging Agency were not isolated, but DABC has strengthened controls over package agencies since the Eden audit," the report from the Legislative Auditor General concluded.

Holding leaders fiscally responsible, accountable and compliant

Want to hold your managers more accountable? Utah State University fired its executive director of enrollment services after a March 2012 internal audit revealed irregularities in the way scholarships had been distributed. Those irregularities were discovered through an ongoing risk management process where the university audits various departments.

"We're regularly doing audits, and in this case the auditors decided to look at how scholarships are dispersed and found some irregularities," USU spokesman Tim Vitale said.

Requesting an audit to ensure your employees are complying with your own company’s policies and holding them more accountable could save your company from having to fire valuable employees.

Finding ways to save money and operate more efficiently

Who wouldn’t want to save money and run more efficiently? With state park systems across the nation under pressure to reduce the use of taxpayer funds, the Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee in Janurary of 2011 requested an audit to identify strategies for the Utah state park system to be more self-sufficient and reduce its reliance on the General Fund. For fiscal year 2010, $9.2 million was spent from the General Fund to support Utah’s state parks. Recommendations from this audit could save the state $4.5 million over the next three years.

Another legislative audit in January 2011 that compared six major insurance carriers in the state noted that Utah's Public Employees Health Program has higher medical, hospital and pharmacy costs and concluded that the state “can’t continue to sustain that.” The audit report provided 19 recommendations to help the program become more efficient and effective.

To find ways to save more money and become more efficient, request an audit. Your net revenues — and your stakeholders — will love you for it.

Preventing data breaches

Gov. Gary Herbert called for an independent audit of all state technology security efforts and data storage procedures on April 11, 2012. The move comes after the most extensive data breach in state history, one that exposed more than 700,000 Utahns to potential identity theft and could end up costing the state millions of dollars.

"It is tragic that not only data was breached, but now individual trust is also compromised," Herbert said in a statement. The state is "doing everything" it can to restore security. "Now we must do everything we can to restore trust," Herbert said.

So how do the auditees feel about these audits being performed?

“I have sincerely appreciated the continued presence of your audit team at DABC and the professional way they have performed this and previous audits,” responded Francine A. Giani, executive director of the DABC. “This audit makes some sound recommendations. … I appreciate the audit team's work to help the DABC operate in a more transparent and accountable way.”

Watch out, your auditor may become your next best friend.

Aaren Humpherys graduated from Brigham Young University in 2001, is a CPA, emergency preparedness expert and father of three. Contact him at [email protected] or visit www.colonypointe.org.