Pinal County’s internal audit function - Tucson Local Media: Opinion

Pinal County’s internal audit function

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Richard D. Brinkley

Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 4:00 am

The Office of Internal Audit in Pinal County is under review by the Board of Supervisors.  On Nov. 13, Supervisor Todd House criticized Chairman Steve Miller of conducting a “witch hunt” against Internal Auditor Kate Witek.  Steve Miller did not respond to the attack.

Vice Chairman Tony Smith, District 4, “ . . . found it regrettable that Supervisor House chooses to make this more of a personal accusation rather than just concentrate on the facts.”  

And the facts need to be evaluated.  First, Assistant County Manager Leo Lew provided an analysis showing an Internal Audit rate of $88 per hour versus an outside audit cost of $115 per hour.  Supervisors House and Chase said this proves Internal Audit is more efficient. No one appeared to evaluate how effective Internal Audit is.

For example, while Internal Audit won a couple of dubious awards in 2009 and 2010, what has it done since then? In November 2011, Internal Audit, with Kate Witek as Internal Auditor, produced the Airport Economic Development (AED) Department Report (reported in this column at the time).  

The shocking finding was that the AED had never adjusted lease payments with the Evergreen Maintenance Center, Inc., from 1999 through 2011. The county had been underpaid $741,167 during this time. What was overlooked was where was Internal Audit during those 13 years.  How effective can Internal Audit be performing one audit of AED in thirteen years?

Another area of serious concern is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract signed with Pinal County in 2006.  From 2006 to 2012, Internal Audit did not look at this contract even once. The audit, published in January 2013, showed Pinal County was losing $50,000 a week on the ICE contract. Where was Internal Audit in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011? 

The County Recorder hired her daughter’s boyfriend, recently released from prison, convicted felon Albert Robbs, to work in the Recorder’s office. This position gave Robb access to social security and credit card numbers of Pinal County residents. 

 

(Editors Note: To read the rest of Brinkley’s column, go to www.explorernews.com/opinion.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He immediately began stealing checks from the recorder’s office.  Where was Internal Audit? Hiring policy was a weakness waiting to be discovered by Internal Audit.

The question is less one of cost than of effectiveness. Pinal County can pay $88 per hour for ineffective internal auditing or $115 per hour for faster and more effective outside auditors.

Historically, Pinal County government has been plagued with corruption. In 2007, former County Manager Stanley Griffis pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft. He was sentenced to prison for 3 ½ years. He was ordered to repay more than $600,000 in restitution.  Where was the Internal Audit function in 2007?

If Kate Witek wants to be the Internal Auditor for Pinal County, then she has to demonstrate her value to Pinal County and the Board of Governors. To date, it is questionable that she has or is capable of demonstrating value. She made herself a polarizing figure in publicly attacking members of the Board of Supervisors, the very organization she is supposed to serve.

Supervisors House and Chase do not add value by being caught up in the emotional drama directed by Kate Witek.  Supervisors must evaluate the facts, quit playing favorites and make hard decisions. If Witek was in the private sector publicly attacking superiors, she would be out of a job. 

The position of Internal Auditor requires loyalty to the Board of Directors, to which the Internal Auditor reports. The Internal Auditor must exercise discretion and maintain confidentiality.  And the Internal Auditor must be effective.  Kate Witek has failed on all three counts.

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