Interview with ACA president Dr. Margit Kraker
In the following interview, Dr. Margit Kraker, president of the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) explains why the WU Executive Academy is her partner of choice when it comes to providing ACA employees with further education and training.
The Austrian Court of Audit is eager for ACA employees to attend the certificate program Public Auditing and the Professional MBA Public Auditing. The two programs, which are offered by the WU Executive Academy, provide participants with practical training, the latest research findings—and an interdisciplinary learning experience resulting from the fact that the student body also includes employees of federal ministries and audit offices. “We strive to get a better understanding of the big picture and enhance our knowledge and skills,” says ACA president Dr. Margit Kraker.
What changes have there been in recent years regarding the demands placed on auditors?
The demands in auditing are changing just as the demands in administration in general are changing. In this day and age, public systems are in a state of flux. As far as auditing is concerned, this means not only that we are required to keep our finger on the pulse but also that we have to think ahead in terms of how to adapt systems to the processes of the digital age in a timely fashion. We need new auditing methods as well as new skills in the field of statistical analysis. Moreover, we have to know international standards so as to be able to carry out audits in an unbiased and independent manner.
What skills and knowledge will auditors need in the future?
Above all else, the ACA needs people who bring knowledge to the job—coupled with the ability to analyze complex issues and get to the facts that really matter through a process of abstraction. Thinking in interdisciplinary terms is crucial, which is why it is important to enhance one's appreciation of the big picture and engage in networking. I think our cooperation with the WU Executive Academy, which helps us bring theory and practice together, is just what we need when it comes to ensuring that our auditors are fit for their job. At the ACA, we have people with a wide variety of backgrounds, including law and economics as well as technology and other fields. This diversity makes for an ideal mix.
So you are proactively looking to compare notes with other institutions?
Absolutely. The certificate program makes it possible for participants to mutually benefit from their knowledge. It brings ACA auditors together with experts from the internal auditing divisions of federal ministries, from the courts of audit of the Austrian provinces and from other territorial authorities and auditing offices. Everybody benefits from this experience. An economist does not ask the same questions as a scientist or a legal expert. These people speak different languages. For instance, everyone has a different concept of what “efficiency” means. The certificate program and the MBA program help bridge the language gap and bring practical knowledge and theoretical insights together. Moreover, they provide participants with a sound academic underpinning for their work. What makes ACA audits compelling is the fact that they are based on good arguments—the theoretical background is provided by these two programs.
Apart from the start of the Professional MBA Public Auditing, fall 2017 saw the launch of the certificate program Public Auditing. Why have you decided to cooperate even more closely with the WU Executive Academy in this field?
We have to keep developing our expertise. Therefore, we are keenly interested in interacting with the academic community. The ACA will stand or fall by the knowledge of its auditors, which is why we have to make sure that auditors who join us are provided with basic training that is even more solid and more practical than in the past. In terms of training, we need a certain level of excellence across Austria. Each and every ACA auditor is required to complete the certificate program. The Professional MBA is an opportunity for further training and specialization intended for top experts with practical experience who have a particularly keen interest in auditing and who would like to develop themselves and their careers. The federal ministries and the courts of audit of the Austrian provinces, in particular, are eager for their employees to complete the certificate program with a view to receiving basic training that is academically sound. Since the certificate program is delivered on a full-time basis, employees attending it are given leave. This training is really a sine qua non for us to be able to do our job.
As an MBA program, the PMBA Public Auditing by definition also covers general management topics. How significant are they for ACA auditors?
These people are knowledgeable and excellently qualified auditing experts who relish a challenge. The MBA will be a valuable asset to those who intend to become directors-general or division heads because it teaches them a lot about people management and organizational development.
In the course of the PMBA Public Auditing, participants also develop their understanding of entrepreneurship and innovation: Why is this important for auditors?
We need to keep developing as an organization. So it is important for us to stay up to date in terms of knowledge and have our finger on the pulse. To this end, we must be aware of the latest research findings. Otherwise, we cannot provide fresh input as part of the auditing process. Above all else, ACA audits are to support the state in moving forward. An auditor's job is to identify the topics that really matter and analyze them in the right way with a view to making recommendations that help ensure that the state is fit for the future. An audit is not an end in itself. It should be a catalyst for action as far as the auditee is concerned. Auditors are required to make meaningful recommendations. Hence, they need to have a good understanding of how to manage businesses and how to kick-start innovation. Their recommendations have to make sense. This is also a considerable challenge for the lecturers of the entrepreneurship and innovation class.
Are ACA employees also teaching in the program?
60% of the lecturers come from the WU Executive Academy and WU Vienna; the remaining 40% are experts from the Austrian public auditing community. There is, for instance, a case simulation requiring participants to work on a case in heterogeneous teams over a three-day period. Some classes are taught jointly by faculty members of WU Vienna and our lecturers—e.g. a professor of law from WU Vienna and the head of a division that is responsible for reviewing compliance with procurement rules. Participants benefit greatly from this co-teaching: They can develop their understanding of both the theory and how to apply it in practice. Moreover, our auditors get to interact with people working in internal auditing, i.e. the auditees, as it were, and this is also a win-win situation. It results in an invaluable wealth of fresh input and insight. I think those interested in driving organizational development and innovation from within will also find the certificate program extremely exciting, as it provides them with an opportunity to take a closer look at questions such as: How do you perform internal audits? How do you implement proper risk management? How does people management work in practice? And there is one more thing to keep in mind: Researchers strive to get a better understanding of the future through analysis, and good auditors have to be able to think ahead into the future.
Find more information about the Public Auditing Program of the WU Executive Academy here: