Nov. 19, 2007
By Jessica Alfrey
Ohio University's Internal Control Committee is preparing to administer an online survey to faculty and staff winter quarter as part of an effort to continuously improve the university's business processes.
Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur established the 13-member committee in October 2006 to review Ohio University's control environment and develop a plan for improving its system of internal controls. Internal Auditor Kathryn Gilmore, who co-chairs the group, emphasized that the committee was formed to help reduce risk.
"An effective system of internal controls helps assure the correct treatment of university resources," Gilmore said. "Internal controls include appropriate access to records, proper procedures for expending funds and clearly stated policies about the use of university assets. An example of an internal control is performing computer backups to prevent loss of data in the event of a system failure."
The upcoming survey will focus on areas such as assignment of authority and responsibility, communication between supervisors and employees, and integrity and ethical values. University Human Resources is assisting with presenting the survey in electronic format.
"The survey will serve as a baseline to determine the current status of the internal control environment at Ohio University. The survey itself will strengthen the environment by creating a culture in which employees better understand internal control," Gilmore said.
Results of the survey will be reported by planning unit, not by individual or department. This anonymity will give employees the freedom to respond frankly.
Larry Corrigan, associate vice president for finance and administration and the committee's other co-chair, said the university eventually hopes to create a Web site that not only assesses adherence to policies and procedures, but also provides valuable guidance and information. He pointed to one such site hosted by Indiana University at Bloomington.
"As you're asked a question, a link to the applicable policy is provided," Corrigan said. "They also provide another link to a screen that gives suggestions on resources available to address each of the controls."
Gilmore said the survey will offer a means of self-assessment. "It's about every one of us looking at the environment we work in and providing as much information as we can as we go through this continuous improvement process," she said.
The Internal Control Committee also has been working on an official code of conduct and a code of financial ethics. Those will be channeled through the necessary policy review and approval process winter quarter and shared in presentations to the university's constituent senates. Decatur also plans to form task forces to address top priorities for strengthening internal controls.
"It's all about improving our financial controls and the environment that we all work in so we can better achieve our goals and our academic mission," Gilmore said.