Gwinnett to hire internal auditor

Gwinnett leaders agreed this week to hire an internal auditor, adding another layer of review to county spending and operations.

The job will not be filled immediately, and finance director Maria Woods would not give any kind of time frame for when the Office of Internal Audit would be created, it’s cost, or when a related internal audit committee would be formed.

“There’s a lot to be done,” she said.

The county first hired an internal auditor more than 30 years ago, but has been less committed to the position in recent years. In 2007, Gwinnett changed its audit division to a Performance Analysis Division, which focused not only on auditing, but on advisory services and measuring employees’ performance. The head of that department left in 2012, and since then, the work has largely been done by an outside firm.

The new office and committee will help with the oversight of public funds and “add to the accountability of the county,” Woods said. County commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to create the two groups. In many ways, it is a continuation of their efforts to restore trust in local government.

In the past administration, three commissioners left their jobs amid scandal. One resigned in lieu of being indicted, one reached a plea deal to serve probation and a third was found guilty of bribery and sent to prison.

Woods said previously that internal auditing would help mitigate risk by looking closely at the county’s internal controls. Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said in a statement that the move supports the county’s commitment “to be transparent and accountable for the use of public funds.”

Gwinnett’s internal auditor will be expected to conduct financial, compliance, performance and other audits for all of the county’s departments and programs. Woods said previously that an auditor would have to come up with a schedule of what to investigate, but also be flexible enough to take on issues as they came up.

Commissioners praised the effort, including the seven-member audit committee that would serve as a balance against the audit employees. Woods, too, said it is important for an independent investigator to keep an eye on the county.

“It’s a good thing to do,” she said.

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