ATHENS, Ohio (May 15, 2006) -- Efficiency and accuracy are two goals every business strives for and Ohio University is no exception.
A new anonymous procedure for reporting suspected criminal, unethical or otherwise inappropriate behavior was contracted by Internal Audit with EthicsPoint, an independent mediator in Portland, Ore.
The company handles the security of such reports and delivers them to Internal Audit anonymously. EthicsPoint serves corporate, higher education and non-profit sectors across the nation.
The system allows Ohio University employees to report violations anonymously via telephone or the Internet.
"The system is designed to make the reports as actionable as possible even when the reporter remains anonymous. It asks the questions that we really need to know," said Kathy Gilmore, director of Ohio University Internal Audit.
To make a report, employees can link to EthicsPoint through the Internal Audit homepage, www.ohio.edu/audit/internal.cfm. From there, a step-by-step process leads the employee through the report, beginning with the nature of the violation. Financial matters, regulatory, human resources, athletics, risk and safety, medical, and information technology are the initial choices and each category has its own specific set of questions about the incident.
"The extensive nature of the reports help to prevent the reporting of false accusations while providing Internal Audit with the information needed," Gilmore said.
If employees want to protect themselves when making reports, Gilmore said they should be careful not to include facts that could compromise their identity, such as the number of years they have worked at the university or the location of their desk within the office in relation to the person being reported.
"While the university can't tap into EthicsPoint's secure site, we keep a log of all the URLs that people access. If a reporter is concerned that there is a record of the URL they visited, we recommend accessing the Web through a public library computer or from home," she said.
Reports made through EthicsPoint are handled in the same way as any other report.
"We look at the facts, we take it seriously," Gilmore said.
Since Internal Audit contracted EthicsPoint in January, six reports have been made using the system. Some of those reports were misconceptions that required clarification while others were more serious, said Jeff Davis, a senior auditor at Internal Audit.
Internal Audit chose EthicsPoint because unlike other such systems, it allows for a continuing dialogue between the anonymous reporter and Internal Audit. Employees can use EthicsPoint for answers to questions they wouldn't feel comfortable going to their supervisors with. After a report is made, the employee can create a user name and password to sign back into the system to check the status of their reports and answer questions the investigators may have.
Internal Audit is an independent sector of the university designed to monitor and improve all types of business policies and procedures across the campus. To help operations run smoothly, they strive for efficiency and accuracy.
"Our number one goal is to improve the control environment," Davis said.
In explaining what it is that Internal Audit does, Gilmore said, "We're more than a watchdog. We look at the processes units have in place and recommend improvements for more efficient ways to do things, and we benchmark what our units do against other colleges and universities.
"It's more than just compliance work, which is measuring performance against policies and procedures. We're looking also at process improvement," she said. "EthicsPoint is a new way to continue to identify problems, find solutions and increase efficiency at Ohio University."
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