June 25, 2001
Auditing made easy
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
Contrary to popular belief, Bill Mulcahy does not keep a collection of
fine-toothed combs in his desk with which to pick through the budget of
every department on the Emory campus.
But the images attached to the job title of Emorys chief
audit officer can be a little tough to shake.
The work definitely is more sophisticated now than in the past. The days
of poring over Manhattan phone-book-sized reams of printouts, squinting
at tiny numbers, and tickling the keys of a ratta-tat-tat adding machine
are long gone.
At times, changing that image gives us some trouble, Mulcahy
said, his tone giving away the fact that he has discussed this particular
subject many times before. If we ask to look at the records over
the years, people have gotten used to, well, you know, Heres
the file drawers, go ahead and pull what you want. Now when we want
to look at the records, what we need is access to a departments
In general, people who have always been hesitant to give any outsiders
electronic access to their information are probably even more hesitant,
he continued. So we need appropriate access. But the last thing
we need to be doing is going through paper records when, in fact, the
departments are keeping things electronically. We need to audit the same
Mulcahy is no stranger to new technology. It is, in fact, one of his
central interests. Shortly after coming to Emory, Mulcahy joined the Association
of Healthcare Internal Auditors (AHIA), his professions primary
networking organization. Soon after, he found that associations
communication could use some upgrading.
I thought that the organization would benefit a lot from technology,
Mulcahy said. With 700 members scattered around the country, you
cant get together very often. In 1995, Mulcahy set up AHIAs
first listserva common thing now, but quite cutting edge six years
ago. He received a technology award for his efforts.
In 1999, Mulcahy was elected to a three-year term on AHIAs board
of directors. He spent his first year as executive vice president.
The next year, he was treasurer. And on Jan. 1 of this year, Mulcahy
ascended to chairman of the board.
His pet project for the year has been the revamping of AHIAs online newsletter E*Perspectives.
Once a text-based e-mailing, E*Perspectives was combined with an HTML-formatted
association newsletter called Conference 2001. The result is an eye-catching,
informative online publication that covers all the issues for the organization.
The focus of the remainder of his term will be on planning AHIAs
annual conferencea particularly big occasion this year since 2001
marks AHIAs 20th anniversary.
The H in AHIA may give off the impression that Mulcahy deals
only with health care issues. That is not true. His office is responsible
for all areas of Emory, from the University, to Oxford, to every hospital.
Emorys Office of Internal Audit is small, consisting of just three
people: Mulcahy, director Debra Keppler and information systems auditor
Kendall Thomas. Therefore most auditing is contracted out, with Mulcahy
and Keppler providing the leadership.
At the University level, Mulcahy said, departments have a lot more freedom
with their budgets. They can choose their own systems and internal control
procedures, so each audit must be approached differently. Health care
audits are a bit different.
On the health care side, because of regulation and privacy issues,
procedures are much more standardized, Mulcahy said. So if
you audit one department, youve learned certain internal control
procedures of other departments. Its that kind of philosophy.
But that doesnt make things any easier. Where the Board of Trustees
audit committee previously met twice a year, it now convenes six times
a year because of the multitude of new health care regulations.
To deal with the understandable edginess of departments who are audited,
Mulcahys office gives them a brochure (the contents of which also
are posted on the web at www.emory.edu/IAD)
detailing the process. It describes the different types of audits, discusses
the audit committee of the Board of Trustees and other issues such as
staffing, internal controls and how the department will learn the results.
Before he ever became an employee, Mulcahy was familiar with Emory. He
worked as an auditor for Arthur Andersen for 10 years doing financial
statement audits at the University, the two hospitals, the Emory Clinic
and Wesley Woods. About 12 years ago, he came on board at Emory. I
look upon it as, I came to work for what was my favorite client,
And he has taken full advantage. A father of three daughters (he and wife Cheri just celebrated their 30th anniversary), Mulcahys two oldest children attended and graduated from Emory using courtesy scholarships: The eldest, Christine graduated from Oxford in 1993 and Emory in 1995; and middle child Karen earned her Emory degree in 1998. Youngest daughter Megan graduates next summer from Georgia Southern.