Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
Nicole Galloway, CFE
Few things are as important as ‘the follow through.’ In many respects, following through is as important as beginning the task itself. This practice is what essentially led Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, CFE, to obtain her credential. “I didn’t want to just start the case,” says Galloway. “I wanted to put the pieces together and see it through to the end.” In this way, Galloway believes that the state auditing process provides an opportunity for review, investigation and recommendations in pursuance of making government better for its people. “I believe strongly that the work we do is critical,” says Galloway. “I want others to understand how we can bring government closer to citizens.”
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
When I worked as an actuary at Allstate Insurance I would review internal case studies that provided real-world examples of recently discovered fraud attempts. In one case, an individual filed a claim for his home, which he claimed was destroyed in a tornado. But when the adjustor went to investigate, she found the home was just fine. I would check these listings every day – I found it so incredible that there were people out there that would try to perpetrate these frauds and actually thought they could get away with it. Shortly after, I started taking accounting classes and I realized that it was more than just people who tried to get away with something. Of course, there were bad actors, but there were also circumstances — the opportunities for fraud — that allowed these activities to occur. I found this interesting, and it sparked my interest in fraud and fraud investigations.
Why did you decide to become a CFE?
As an internal auditor at an insurance company, I saw the impact that the company's CFEs had. They seemed to be doing the most interesting things! I remember when I first started using Audit Command Language (ACL) I found a number of insurance policies in our records that had the same P.O. Box listed as the address. It was an interesting discovery, but then I had to hand the information off to a CFE in the company to lead the investigation. I didn't want to just start the case, I wanted to be able to put the pieces together and see it through to the end.
How do you think your CFE credential has helped you in your role?
As Missouri State Auditor, I see a lot of things like internal controls and segregation of duties that can be dry and not exciting to the general public. I think the CFE credential has helped me communicate why these seemingly mundane things are so critical. When I speak to groups I can give them real world examples of when these “boring” control findings opened the opportunity for fraud to be committed. That gets people's attention.
What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a CFE?
If something doesn't make sense, investigate it — ask follow-up questions.
What steps led you to your current position?
Prior to becoming Missouri State Auditor, I served as Treasurer of Boone County, an elected position in local government. I also have experience in the private sector as a corporate auditor, accountant and actuarial analyst. I earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Missouri and degrees in Applied Mathematics and Economics from Missouri University of Science and Technology.
The great thing about this office is that I'm able to use my background in both the private and public sectors to serve the citizens of Missouri. I go to work each day to protect taxpayer dollars and improve the way we do business in Missouri. It's both humbling and rewarding and I credit the cumulative education and experiences I've had that have brought me here.
What is your current role and what does it entail?
As the 38th Auditor of the State of Missouri, I am responsible for the operations of an office that provides oversight and independent review to hold government accountable. My office works to ensure the proper use of public funds and to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Missouri government. Audits examine financial practices to identify potential waste, opportunities for fraud, cybersecurity weaknesses and whether government organizations and programs are operating efficiently and transparently.
How do you stay up to date on the latest fraud schemes that people try to perpetrate through the government?
I stay up to date by reading the ACFE website and Fraud Magazine, of course! I am always learning from the experiences of others, from current events and from the work we do on a daily basis in my office. As an auditor and CFE, it's so important to never stop learning. The individuals who want to commit fraud are always developing new schemes and it's up to us to stay one step ahead.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on; one that made you feel especially proud?
My team completed an audit in December of Hope Academy, a charter school in Kansas City that's no longer operating. It actually closed during the course of our audit work, which demonstrates the extent of the issues we found there. What we saw at Hope Academy — manipulated attendance records to get more state funding, students getting credit for non-academic work like dog walking and babysitting — was frustrating. The school was designed to serve as a second chance for students who were working to make positive changes in their lives, instead taxpayers were defrauded out of millions of dollars and, most importantly, the school failed these kids. Since our audit, a lawsuit has been filed against Hope Academy seeking the $3.7 million owed to the state. We can't get back the opportunities that these students lost, but it's good to see that steps are being taken to hold officials accountable, and I'm proud of the work we did there.
What do you hope to personally pass on to the next generation of fraud fighters?
I hope to pass on a real interest in public sector auditing. I believe strongly that the work we do is critical, and I want others to understand how we can bring government closer to citizens. I know that there can be a general distrust of government, but the auditing process provides for review, investigation and recommendations designed to make the system better. By shedding light on how government operates at every level, we can get away from distrust and move to a place of healthy skepticism. Questioning how government works is a good thing; it's healthy. But we need citizens to be engaged in the process and make suggestions to ensure government operates more efficiently.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
My husband and I have two sons: 4-year-old William, and 2-year-old Benjamin. They make sure many of my hobbies are now family events. We spend time cooking together most evenings. I'm pretty sure that if they start early enough, one of them is bound to surpass my skills and become the family chef. At least I can dream, can't I?
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