So You Want to Be A Government Auditor…

I’ve been talking a lot about the opportunities for accountants and auditors in the public sector.  There’s the potential for a shift to direct monitoring of investments by government auditors in previously public companies such as AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Citigroup.  There’s also the increased hiring by regulatory agencies such as the SEC, PCAOB, FDIC, FED, TARP Oversight, Congressional Oversight, and CFTC.  And finally the need for more internal auditors and GAAP/SEC reporting specialists in both consulting firms and industry.  

I had the opportunity a while back to join the Office of the Inspector General for the City of Chicago.  It’s a long story but, in the end, after being offered the position, I decided against it.  I wouldn’t have been choosing the job and the increased scrutiny that goes along with it only for myself, but for my entire family.  Everyone would have been subject to potential media attention of who we know, who we socialize with, and who we support politically. Given where I came from and how I grew up, that was potentially a heck of a lot of scrutiny.  

My parents have followed the activities of David Hoffman, Chicago’s Inspector General much more closely since.  And they often say, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t take that job?  What would we have done?  He’s going after everyone!”  Yes, he is.  I’m not in a position to judge the merits of each case, but let’s just say he has more to worry about than I do.  My parents’ greatest fear is that one of the accounting partners I’ve offended may stab me in the neck with a mechanical pencil in a dark alley in NYC…

My friend and former colleague, Richard Chambers, is now the President of the Institute of Internal Auditors.  Richard has a lifetime of internal audit experience and is my go-to-guy when it comes to the fine points of the internal auditing career.  He’s now writing a blog for the IIA and his latest post touches on the challenges of being a government auditor.  

“…with an alarming frequency, it seems that some of our colleagues who audit local government operations are waging an uphill battle against formidable political forces.

Government has always been a challenging place to audit. It is often argued that government can only be effective if it “maintains the public trust.” If that is true, internal auditors in government play a pivotal role in reinforcing that trust. Their work provides assurance to taxpayers and citizens that resources are deployed effectively and that public officials are good stewards of taxpayer dollars…Although most elected officials welcome the insight that comes from an effective internal audit program, an increasing number appear threatened by the scrutiny that accompanies critical audit results. When they do feel threatened, they lash out at the messenger!”

Go here for more.

And don’t forget internal audit as an option if you want to do right, do good, and perform a critical corporate/governmental governance role.

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3 replies
  1. fm
    fm says:


    Thanks! And Crystal has connected with me on Twitter. You guys are so savvy. Hope it’s entertaining enough for you. But as you can see, it’s all me. 🙂

  2. Steve
    Steve says:

    As an actual government auditor, federal, not local, Mr. Chambers is correct. We, and Congress and the few (sadly) American public that read our reports view us as the last line of defense against fraud, waste, and abuse. Are we perfect, no. Are we usually understaffed and underfunded, yes. There are political issues at times with what to review, how to phrase our finding or what to report at all sometimes, but in the end, we are internal auditors trying to HELP our executive agencies be better, not be “gotcha” auditors, who do little than toss around fire and brimstone, which often accomplishes little than getting their name in the local paper.

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