A trail-blazing survey of the inspector general community showed wide concern over the impact of budget cuts and sequestration, along with a professed faith in technological tools such as data analytics to help assess risk and curb waste, fraud and abuse.
Released on Tuesday by the Association of Government Accountants, supported by Kearney and Co., the first such survey found that more than two-thirds of inspectors general view limited resources as their top challenge, particularly when they feel pressure to hire specialized talent to confront a changing technological landscape. A related challenge is the continuing ability to issue audit reports that are timely and that improve programs and operations.
Fully 85 percent of respondents identified information technology as the area most in need of fresh hires.
Though many IG offices, like the agencies they oversee, have proactively moved funds to ease the impact of across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration, most reported they are operating under a hiring freeze, or modified freeze with one hire for every three vacancies. One office cut its audit staff by 13 percent, while another estimated its full-time equivalent headcount is at its lowest since 1978, when IGs were created.
The anonymous survey consisted of an in-person interview instrument given to a random selection of current and former IG staff governmentwide.
“Financial statement audits provided significant value in the improvement of internal controls and data integrity in financial and other related program areas,” AGA Executive Director Relmond Van Daniker said of the survey results. “As data sources and relationships are refined and capabilities to process and synthesize data are improved, the IG community should greatly benefit. When this relationship is in place, it sets a positive tone at the top and much can be accomplished on behalf of the agency.”
David Zavada, a Kearney partner who helped direct the survey, added, “By leveraging technology, collaborating and sharing more broadly, and introducing earlier risk identification and reporting, IGs are striving to maintain effective oversight in an uncertain and changing environment.”