After spending 26 years on Cobb County’s Fire & Emergency Services team, William Tanks’ career was only getting started. Instead of retiring to the mountains, he accepted a once-in-a-lifetime position as director of public service agencies for the Cobb County Government. Tanks believes the Master of Professional Accountancy (MPA) degree he earned at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business sold his interviewers on his ability to handle a multi-million-dollar budget.
Tanks assumed his new role at the beginning of April but already is gearing up to present the county’s budget to its board of commissioners. “My financial accounting courses are going to help with this project a lot,” he says. “I have to analyze large spreadsheets, draw conclusions and determine whether adjustments need to be made.”
As part of his seminar on internal auditing, Tanks and his classmates examined a startup company’s processes, identified potential risks and presented an audit plan to mitigate those areas of concern. “Everything my team carries out for the government is subject to an internal audit and should be transparent,” Tanks says. “My guys might not understand why we have to conduct an inventory, but I can explain that to them because of my [MPA] degree.”
The internal auditing seminar came in handy during Tanks’ time as deputy fire chief as well. Separation of duties is a critical component of strong risk control; it prevents fraud. For example, the professional who orders supplies should not also issue the supplies across the organization. “We did not have separation of duties in a few key areas,” Tanks recalls. “I brought that to the attention of the fire chief and internal auditing department, and that has since changed.”
Tanks chose the MPA’s cohort format so he could graduate as quickly as possible. “The cohort is already planned out and forces you to stay on course,” he says. “All you have to do is go to class and pass.”