Cobb County Government

Adding up savings to taxpayers

From right, Staff Auditors Steven Harper and Barry Huff interview members of Cobb County Human Resources about their benefit program.

Staff Reports

There are times when looking over someone’s shoulder can be a task, a career or even a government department.

With just four people, the Internal Audit Division is a small part of Cobb government, but its impact can be felt throughout the county.

"We make sure the county resources are being used in the most efficient, effective way for the citizens," Division Manager Latona Thomas said. "We’re here checking. We’re independent. We’re objective."

Thomas, a certified public accountant, said the county’s financial statements are audited by an outside firm.
Internal Audit, instead, largely reviews processes and procedures of county departments to look for ways they can be improved.

These improvements can mean cost savings to taxpayers. For instance, the division was involved in the decision to have Human Resources no longer distribute annual benefit statements, which has saved an estimated $15,000 each year.

"A lot of times it’s hard to quantify the amount of money that will be saved," Staff Auditor Barry Huff said. "Every audit is different."

Two years ago, the division audited the street light program. It ended up making about 30 recommendations that led to the development of a Geographic Information System database of where every street light is in the county. This audit by itself resulted in revenue increases of $32,809 for two years, according to the division’s 2010 and 2011 annual report.

Cobb County Spokesman Robert Quigley said Internal Audit, which became its own division in 2008, performs an essential function for county government.

"Internal Audit is an important safety mechanism to ensure county operation standards and accountability standards are consistently being met," he said. "They help us monitor the job we do for the public."

Most recent audits included the evaluation of 800 MHz radio operations, emergency 911 fund administration and controls over accountable equipment. These audits resulted in more than 40 recommendations that increased the effectiveness and efficiency of county operations.

One current audit involves looking at the controls over incoming and outgoing benefit payments in the Human Resources Department. Huff said they go over processes and procedures in detail with the departments they audit.

"We always ask the question why they do it that way," he said.

Often the division acts as a consultant, advising other departments on such matters as the Economic Development Incentive Program, pension actuarial accuracy or the hiring of professional services. The division also facilitates the citizen suggestion cost savings program.
Huff, who started with the county in 2007 after retiring from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, said his work with the county is satisfying when they can find a better way to do something, thereby saving time and money.

"If we can do that, we’ve met our goal," he said.