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The 'Heart of Gold' Crew Is Like a Great Audit Team

Updated: 5 hours ago

(Photo: Steve Cloutier / Bermuda Race)


Effective government at all levels requires a team of professionals, dedicated to the goals of service, self-improvement, and excellence. The value I place in teamwork was recently affirmed as a deckhand racing from Newport, RI to Bermuda on the sailing vessel Heart of Gold.


On the boat, as on an audit team, it is important to have experience, talent, and passion at each position. On the crew, these positions include the foredeck, mast, pit, trim, helm, and navigator. In the Office of the State Auditor, positions include senior auditors, staff accountants, administrators, IT specialists, analysts, and support staff.


Make the boat go!


To make the boat go, the foredeck and mast person bend the sails to the rigging and call for the hoist. In the pit the crew pulls up the halyards while trimmers sheet in the sails and the helm steers off of the wind. When these happen in the right synchronized sequence, the boat charges forward. Each trained and experienced crew member does an independent tasks like pulling a line, cranking on a winch, or turning a wheel. This ballet generates leeway where otherwise the boat would be tossed by waves and drifting in wind and current.

On an audit team, the senior auditor sets the objectives while analysts and staff accountants plan transactions to sample and draft the data requests, workplan and timeline. Administrators set up communication plans and the work paper files. The IT team seamlessly provides hardware and software applications in support. As data is confirmed or audit concerns raised, the team focuses on audit trails, follow up requests, meetings, and validations as needed to finalize the findings. Careful interviews confirm internal control systems and any qualitative concerns. In combination, the results provide assurance that reported financial and performance measures fairly represent the condition of the audit target where otherwise public funds may be subject to waste, fraud, and abuse.


A 4-day journey


Racing to Bermuda on the Heart of Gold, my main job was in the Pit while I also was the cook for the crew. Starting with a gentle ocean breeze, the wind died for six hours before piping up and howling from the southwest. As a result, for most of the 4 day race we were beating into the wind, the boat at a 30 degree angle and pounding into the waves and chop of the Gulf Stream. Unlike the ballet of the start, it was more a struggle to survive with several of the crew suffering from seasickness and each of us going through the range of emotions that we all face when challenged with work, self-care, and watching out for each other. In some cases, team mates had to cover for each other, but in all cases the basic tasks of steering, trimming, and managing the boat carried on in a harmony that drove the boat down the race course.


As we raced through 24-hour shifts of 4 hours on watch and 4 hours of rest, I thought about how important were the contributions of each team member. I reflected on how the race was in ways a metaphor for the work of the Office of State Auditor -- the importance of each professional in each role, our reliance on each other, how in doing our work well we acheived results impossible to accomplish alone, and how every race and every audit has unique challenges that we can only prepare for and must overcome together to acheive our goals.


When elected, I will bring this bias for team work and for valuing the contributions of every member of our Audit teams. I will extend this as much as possible to our audit partners in State Government. I beleive this is the best way for us to be good financial stewards of our State Government and to attain excellent result. Please help me reach this goal by considering a donation on my website and by voting for Bob Drach for NC State Auditor this November.


Heart of Gold crew, ready to race!

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1 Comment


Graham Andrews
Graham Andrews
5 hours ago

Excellent metaphor! As with your contributions to the Sailing team, you will make an excellent State Auditor!

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