New Buncombe audit director will increase public accountability reports, transparency – Citizen Times

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ASHEVILLE – The scope of Buncombe’s new internal audit director’s job was updated almost as soon as he started on Jan. 10.
Dan Keister, hired at the start of 2022, is more than two months into his job and already has discussed with Buncombe County Board of Commissioners how many times the Internal Audit Committee — which Keister reports to — should give public board updates.
Before Keister started, it was once a year.
Now, in the interest of increased transparency, the committee will report at least twice. Commissioners made that request at a Feb. 1 meeting, Keister’s first appearance before them.
He and Internal Audit Committee Chair Kendra Ferguson confirmed that was the plan moving forward.
The department is still trying to establish oversight strategies it brought into play years before Wanda Greene was indicted on embezzlement, money laundering and fraud charges in 2018.
Related:A timeline of the Buncombe County corruption investigation
Previous reporting:  Wanda Greene, convicted Buncombe County Manager, set to be released early; Greene now in NC
Keister’s hiring as a full time director of the county’s internal audit operations was an important part of establishing a thorough reporting system. Before he started there was only one person working part-time in the department, which traditionally has maintained two employees.
Since he’s started, Keister — who makes $110,770 according to the county’s salary database — said he’s been impressed by Buncombe government’s people. 
Salary Database: Buncombe loses 215 employees in a year; salaries an issue, says county manager
“My initial impressions are, it’s a very talented, motivated, dedicated workforce that’s really committed to serving this community,” he said two months after the official hire date.
“I’ve been really impressed with a lot of the key initiatives underway by the county, specifically the goals outlined within the county’s strategic plan and the recent county survey process.”
Keister’s primary responsibilities as audit director, according to job postings from August 2021, are:
Spirit of transparency:Buncombe leaders see depleted oversight department as ‘opportunity’ to build transparency
Less than a month after he was hired, Keister set out a plan of action for his department for Board of Commissioners on Feb. 1.
In a presentation, he said the department’s mission would be to “perform high quality work with competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence that provides accountability and helps improve the County’s operations and services,” work driven by “the highest professional and ethical standards.”
Previous:Pending vote, Buncombe internal audit director hire is department’s sole full-time employee
Keister added in recent interview that achieving those standards will lead to implementation of a new audit-tracking software called Galvanize — also known as Diligent — which also can be used for data analytics and review.
He said there is a “vision” in Buncombe for taking the audit department’s information technology support “where it needs to go.”
Department leaders in late 2021 proposed new IT staff for this department, given the increasing need for software systems to track and analyze.
But external cyber threats are also inherent and having more IT personnel inside the internal audit department could help mitigate some of those concerns.
Former internal auditor Kelly Houston made a presentation to the Audit Committee in November suggesting several IT hires.
Houston, before Keister was hired, encouraged the county toward a more thoroughly staffed department that focused on the “highest risks” to the county and used technology to “do more with less.”
County Manager Avril Pinder told the Citizen Times before Keister started that she saw the small department as an opportunity for him to “build a team that aligns with his vision for the department.”
Keister for his part doesn’t see many challenges in front of him.
“I don’t see anything particular from an opportunity standpoint that differs from any of the roles I’ve held as either audit consultant or a leader of a department,” he said.
Keister has worked with Driven Brands since August 2020, with RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corp. from March 2018 to Aug. 2020 and with tax accounting and management consulting companies PwC, SC&H Group and Deloitte before that.
Related:Buncombe’s FY 2021 financial audit made 4-year history. Read it in full here.
“My main focus is ensuring we’re providing the best program we can provide for the county and I’m very excited about the opportunity to provide a best-in-class audit program.”
He said he’s been “happy” with the resources he’s been given to do that so far.
Ferguson on March 21 said she wasn’t sure when the next report would happen. 
“Probably not for a couple of months,” she said. The committee currently is reviewing a new audit chart and charter, which may go before Board of Commissioners for approval in the coming months, Ferguson said.
Andrew Jones is Buncombe County government and health care reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter, 828-226-6203 or [email protected]. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

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