University of Iowa graduate students help city with class project

Accounting students developing internal audit procedures for finance department

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IOWA CITY — A group of University of Iowa graduate students are getting a taste of what it’s like to work for a city government.

About 25 Master of Accountancy students, who are in this spring’s advanced auditing class, have been assigned to work with Iowa City’s finance department. Their professor, Kevin Den Adel, who is lecturer in the school’s accounting department, said he’s been teaching the class for eight years and have assigned previous projects for the county and community school districts as well.

Specifically, the students are developing internal auditing processes for various city departments’ financial polices and procedures. While the students won’t actually be doing any of the auditing themselves, Den Adel said at the end of the semester, they’ll hand off a guide to the departments with questions and tests to make sure staff are properly following financial policies and procedures.

“That really gives the students some real incentive,” Den Abdel said. “You’re making sure that you’re providing services to clients and meeting their expectations.”

Dennis Bockenstedt, the city’s finance director, said that while he hasn’t looked into how much time or money this project will save the city, he said the students projects will educate the various departments and create a communication mechanism for them.

Den Adel said the students are helping in eight different areas such as debt management and accounts receivable. He said that many of the policies students are developing audit processes for are things like cash handling and purchasing polices, which were written by the same class a couple years ago.

Graduate students Austin Sabella, Wanhua Chen and Andrew Parker were assigned to develop an audit procedure for the city’s procurement cards, or cards for city employees to make purchases on. Sabella said they group identified areas of risk in the card policy and developed a questionnaire for employees to understand their card use.

To get the project started, Sabella said his group met with both Bockenstedt and the university’s internal audit department to understand how it handles procurement cards. Den Adel said the project is a large portion of the students’ overall grade, 25 percent, so they spend a significant amount of time with multiple check points throughout the semester and a final presentation to the city.

“Sometimes with just regular homework assignments or projects, other than your grade, there’s not incentive to turn in your best work,” Sabella said. “You really don’t want to disappoint them, let them down, so there’s definitely a lot more motivation.”

Den Adel said the students plan to present their final projects to the city May 1. After the presentation, city staff can use the projects as a guide to make sure all their policies are being followed.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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