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June 25, 2001

Auditing made easy

By Eric Rangus


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 Emory’s “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, ‘Here’s 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 department’s computer system.

“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 way.”

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 profession’s primary networking organization. Soon after, he found that association’s 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 can’t get together very often.” In 1995, Mulcahy set up AHIA’s first listserv—a 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 AHIA’s 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 AHIA’s 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 AHIA’s annual conference—a particularly big occasion this year since 2001 marks AHIA’s 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.

Emory’s 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, you’ve learned certain internal control procedures of other departments. It’s that kind of philosophy.”

But that doesn’t 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, Mulcahy’s office gives them a brochure (the contents of which also are posted on the web at 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,” he said.

And he has taken full advantage. A father of three daughters (he and wife Cheri just celebrated their 30th anniversary), Mulcahy’s 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.



Back to Emory Report June 25, 2001