West Virginia University students have taken on another project that will benefit the state, this time in an effort to help smaller, local governments operate more efficiently. Students at the College of Business and Economics will work in the Small Government Monitoring Project, a program spearheaded by the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office to help local governments across the state operate more efficiently and save money.
State Auditor John B. McCuskey said at a press conference today (Dec. 4) at the WVU Erickson Alumni Center that the program was created in response to financial concerns of local West Virginia government officials.
“The Small Government Monitoring Project has been designed to provide financial accountability and lower audit costs associated with small government oversight,” McCuskey said. “This new partnership between the Chief Inspector Division of my office and the WVU College of Business and Economics will provide accounting students real time experience in performing financial monitoring procedures and preparing reports.”
The students receive classroom instruction and standardized working papers within an audit engagement management software system. They apply audit-like concepts on actual governments, while gaining practical experience and exposure to a widely used engagement management software system. The work is supervised and reviewed by the classroom instructor and Auditor’s Office staff.
A pilot program has been tested during the current fall semester on a class of 36 graduate students. Teams of six students performed six engagements on small municipalities utilizing actual municipal records for a given fiscal year, and prepared monitoring reports at the end of the process. They will now present the results of their work and provide recommendations for improving the program.
Scott Fleming, associate professor of accounting and instructor for the graduate audit course in B&E’s Master of Accountancy program, said the benefit for students is that they are able to use real-world facts and situations as tools for hands-on learning.
“Students will learn and use audit software that would otherwise be unavailable to them that they will use in their future careers, and they’re able to work in a team setting that very much mimics the real world,” Fleming said. “From an academic standpoint, this is exactly how students, faculty and a state agency can work together to fulfill WVU’s land-grant mission.”
McCuskey’s announcement of the innovative, new partnership included Javier Reyes, B&E Milan Puskar Dean, as well as students participating in the program.
“When we discussed this pilot project with Dean Reyes, we all agreed it was a fantastic opportunity for fourth-year and graduate accounting students to gain real work experience,” McCuskey added. “We plan to offer this project to our other state universities in the future.”
Reyes said he believes the partnership between WVU and the State Auditor’s Office represents a unique and invaluable opportunity for students.
“Our academic philosophy is one that combines high quality classroom learning with educational opportunities outside the classroom,” said Reyes, B&E Milan Puskar Dean. “Students are participating in a program where they are practicing financial accountability and efficiency while helping the State of West Virginia. The Small Government Monitoring Project is a great example of what we can accomplish through innovative collaboration.”
Moving forward, the State Auditor’s Office will streamline the process and propose legislation that will make this program a reality, thereby saving valuable tax dollars, while providing our higher education students an excellent opportunity for real life accounting and auditing experiences.
“It is my greatest hope these students will not only learn from this experience, but also consider a career in state government in accounting and auditing,” McCuskey added. “It’s another opportunity to engage and encourage our young professional population to stay in West Virginia and pursue a meaningful career.”
Fleming added, “Many of the smaller municipalities would be hard-pressed to afford a full financial audit. By allowing advanced students the opportunity to review materials, assess risk and aid in the monitoring of the finances of these government entities, the students can help municipal governments save money. Additionally, it showcases a potential career track for some students who may wish to stay and work within the state and, in particular, work in state government.”
Gregg, College of Business and Economics
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