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Friday, December 05, 2008

IGs trade green eyeshades for forensic auditing

The Office of the Inspector General at the General Services Administration wraps up a two-day conference on forensic auditing today in Crystal City. Its the latest effort by the GSA to equip Inspector Generals at all federal agencies with next-generation tools to root out fraud, waste and abuse in the government.

Doctor Conan Albrecht with Brigham Young University is leading the workshop, conducted this week at the Crystal City Marriott Hotel in Arlington. During a lunch break in the workshop, we asked him first to explain the term "forensic auditing".

Albrecht considers forensic auditing to be a more proactive approach to rooting out fraud. Whereas traditional audits look at a set of data, and then examine anomalies in that data that might point to fraud, he says forensic auditing calls for examining data in more routine areas of contracting, for example, and determining what, if any, problems might be encountered by computer analysis of billions and billions of records on that contract.

The organizer of this workshop is Ted Stehney, the director of forensic auditing with the GSA Inspector General's office. There are about a hundred auditing experts from across the government in attendance and Stehney says it is the interagency aspect of this workshop that is unique.

Stehney explains that having the latest high-tech tools for analysis is vital to today's auditors and inspector generals. When the Federal law establishing the modern Inspector Generals at agencies was passed in 1970, "you were lucky to have a copying machine, much less a computer at every workstation. "

Stehney says this is the third such forensic auditing workshop convened by the GSA IG office this year. And he says conducting these interagency conferences is paying off.

And Brigham Young's Conan Albrecht says the advent of forensic auditing is creating a new breed of auditors who have traded their green eyeshades for the tools of data mining and powerful personal computers.

-Max Cacas, FederalNewsRadio.com

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