Council OKs bumping up salary for new forensic auditor

The Consolidated Government is set to hire a forensic auditor, a position some city leaders say should pay for itself through discovering fraud and inefficiencies.

Columbus Council had earlier approved the hire when passing the fiscal 2013 budget, but Tuesday approved hiking the salary that City Internal Auditor John Redmond could offer applicants. Redmond said the salary range for the G-21 position, from $49,000 to $75,000, was ample, but he could not attract qualified applicants when offering the bottom of that range, which is city policy.

Redmond said he had earlier selected a candidate for the job, but that person said he could not take the job for the salary offered. Redmond said he surveyed some larger markets and found that forensic auditors can command from $100,000 to $150,000.

Council approved the higher salary of about $65,000. Redmond said that because the new hire wouldn’t start until December, the salary increase wouldn’t have any impact on the current budget, but would add about $15,000 to budgets going forward. Councilor and budget review chairman Skip Henderson moved that the council approve the budget hike.

“I hate increasing the budget, particularly in a budget year like this one,” Henderson said. “But this is such a critical position and it’s frankly one of the only positions in government that yields a return through finding inefficiencies and being able to save the government money.”

Councilor Glenn Davis said he supported the increase because he considered it an investment that would yield returns financially and in bolstering the credibility of the Consolidated Government.

“I think this position is going to pay for itself many times over. It’s really key to the integrity and accountability of the entire government,” Davis said. “This is not something that has just come up. We’ve been working on this for several years. The department of the internal auditor has been on the minds of this council for a long time, solidifying it and getting it where it needs to be, and I see this person as being a key part of that.”

A forensic auditor has specialized training to track down improper spending, fraud and inefficiencies, Redmond said.

“They’re also trained in developing evidence for use in court, because usually forensics gets into fraud,” Redmond said. “When you get into those types of cases, you want to have someone who has the training to know how to capture evidence that will hold up in court, so if you catch someone doing something wrong, you have the evidence to prosecute.”

Redmond said he has narrowed the field to three qualified candidates, but declined to name them. He said any of the three would be qualified not only for the forensic auditor position but also to take over his director position when he retires.

“I won’t be here forever,” Redmond said. “I don’t have any immediate plans, but the reality is that the time will come, like everyone else, I will fade away from the organization. I want to be sure that I leave you in good hands of someone who is capable of stepping forward and taking over when that time comes.”

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