by the Pinellas 9
There was a great deal of anticipation as the â€•Pinellas 9 arrived at the Clearwater Beach Hilton Hotel. We were about to enter the field of â€•Inspector General Auditing. As it turned out, the weather was one of our best allies.
Winter struck the Northeast—where most of our instructors lived—causing 30 to 40 inch snow falls in some areas, except on the sunny beaches of Clear-water, Florida, the site of the 2010 Winter Institute. Well, the truth is it was freezing in Florida (lows in the 40â€™s and high of 60). OK so it wasnâ€™t freezing, but we did have some rain. As a result, there was not much else to do but stay in the hotel or go home to study our materials. The week started with some instructors struggling with the record snow-falls, which delayed and canceled their flights. It was so bad that one instructor was unable to attend. As a result, some instructors had to teach sections that they were not initially assigned to teach. How-ever, they adapted, overcame and maintained a positive attitude and were effective in their presentations.
Then reality hit when we were presented with a 4 inch thick binder filled with 21 lessons of detailed information (approximately 500 pages). As students, we knew then we needed to remain focused all day, each day, throughout the week to increase our chances of success on the test. Clearly, the Institute is not for slackers! As the week progressed, we enjoyed the â€•war stories, which helped to link the practical application of concepts and techniques.
- Melinda Miguel was very at ease giving a number of presentations providing excellent examples related to her work experiences.
- Cheryl Ferraraâ€™s non-stop informational style kept us on-our-toes so as to glean as much in-sight as possible. Her stories of the on-site public works facility audits were amazing.
- Bill DiVelloâ€™s varied experiences were presented in such a way that we seemed to live it with him. The $50 million embezzlement story was a real highlight of the week.
- James Boyd was an excellent presenter also, with a number of practical experiences de-scribed.
Although some of us felt we had good working experience in many areas presented in the Institute, many of us had limited exposure to the Yellow Book standards. Our office follows the Interna-tional Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing or the Red Book standards. The instructors presented very good explanations of key concepts of the Yellow Book standards that are applicable to our work, and this is the area we learned the most. There were no surprises, albeit some topics such as statistical sampling and accounting had to be recalled from college courses of
yester year! As the material was presented, some of us tried to develop a study plan for that night to keep up with the material as we went through the week. Some of us knew it would not be a good idea to wait until the final night before the test to study for it and expect to be successful. An impor-tant tip: a highlighter and post-it-flags for pages really make studying easier when dealing with a 500 page manual. The instructors were helpful by emphasizing areas we could concentrate on for the exam, which helped in our study preparation. It is an understatement to say we were glad to see Fri-day finally arrive! The anticipation (or panic for a few) started to set in as we reviewed dozens of lists, standards and specific wording, covering 21 lessons over five days into 120 questions in prepa-ration for the BIG exam. As for the exam it was fair and comprehensive. There were easy questions (some maybe too easy), hard questions and some vague questions for which gleaning the meaning was truly a challenge. We would have gladly traded the vague questions for harder but meaningful ones.
All of us were relieved when we completed our exam, and now, we anxiously await our results. In any case, the Institute was challenging, a good learning experience, a chance for networking and a positive addition to our professional development.
Oh yea, who are the â€•Pinellas 9? We are better known as the nine internal auditors from the Pinellas County Clerkâ€™s Division of Inspector General who attended the Institute and collaborated on this article.