Rose Karam, CFE

Senior Internal Auditor, City of Cleveland


By Interview by Cora Bullock; Photo by Jason Miller

cora-bullock-80x80   I'm a CFE

JanFeb-rose-karamKaram could never be accused of taking the straight path to her goals. She became intrigued by fraud examination in college, but she then went on to work a dizzying array of jobs — from owning a skydiving jumpsuit business to big rig driver, with multiple stops in the nonprofit world. She later learned of an opening in the city of Cleveland’s internal audit department and applied. “When, during my interview, I asked the supervisor what she liked best about the job, she responded that every day was different. That sold me!” says Karam. “Although I may not have the power to change the world, I figured that I could at least start with my own local government.” 

 


While in college, I worked at the main post office and considered becoming a postal inspector. This is when my curiosity for investigative type work first arose.  

 

 

I received my Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Cleveland State University where I majored in accounting. I was introduced to accounting in high school because my mom thought that was more reliable than teaching. My mother was the major influence in my life, and her advice turned out to be good for me. I was also interested in languages — Spanish in particular. I continued studies in that area with thoughts of a career in international business.

Later on, I worked for a housing nonprofit agency and heard stories of the woman who had gotten away with a sizeable embezzlement without facing charges. Reputation was at stake. Despite all the red flags, there was no tightening of controls. I learned that trust is not a control; it’s wishful thinking. My hunger to make a difference peaked. Apparently, the fraud field had been beckoning me for quite some time. I set a goal to gain more knowledge on fraud investigating, which lead to my Certified Fraud Examiner credential. 

I discovered my passion for travel in college, going to Spain twice. During college, some coworkers dared me to make a parachute jump with them. That first jump hooked me. Before long, I wanted to go where the action was so I headed to California, via Florida and Venezuela, to pursue my skydiving dream. I’m not known for always taking the most direct path. You can ask my husband!  

I have worked in the accounting field off and on throughout the years. I was a skydiver for 15 years, and my husband and I ran a skydiving jumpsuit business for seven years. I made more than 1,000 jumps before trying my hand at sailing. During that time, we also bought, gutted and converted a 40-foot bus into our home — doing all the work ourselves. We learned welding, plumbing, electrical work and bodywork. After that, we worked crisscrossing the county driving semi-trucks and delivering freight. Back in Cleveland, I worked at a storage facility renting spaces and moving trucks — setting up the books on the computer and doing taxes. Later I found myself at the nonprofit Eden Inc., as an accountant. 

The Division of Internal Audit at the City of Cleveland is a small staff with a very big job. Our staff capacity is 10 employees, but currently we are operating with six, including: two auditors, two senior internal auditors, a manager and a deputy manager. Internal audit plays a major role in the day-to-day operations of the city as well as in the large decision-making processes, which vary from enforcing policies and procedures to controls and consulting. The mayor’s office relies heavily on the insight and investigative reporting of internal audit, therefore making our team a key player in the operations of our local government. As a senior internal auditor, I often lead audits and provide recommendations based on my experience or expertise in the field and provide guidance to newer members. I recently began collaborating with our city’s Financial Crimes Unit, to gain some exposure in the area of financial exploitation of the elderly — a fraud area of personal interest.

Skydiving taught me to think and react quickly while calmly deciding the best course of action. Responding quickly and appropriately to constantly changing situations that could become a matter of life or death is vital to surviving in the sport. Throughout all my various career experiences, I learned just how vital it is to rely on your instincts! If something seems off, trust your instincts and check it out. Question everything. 


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