What comes to mind when you hear the word “audit?”
An encounter with a grim-faced accountant? Visions of the IRS?
Todd Kucker is quite aware of the negative image many people have about audits, but he’s working hard to change that perception at UC Merced.
Kucker is director of internal audit, and his job is to make sure the campus’s inner workings are efficient, effective, cut waste and offer protection against fraud. Ultimately, his main goal is to ensure that as a campus, UC Merced uses its resources in the best possible manner while meeting its required obligations.
Since joining the campus in Fall 2011, Kucker has spent a lot of time visiting various units and departments and talking with people to let them know he’s there to help.
“I spend a lot of time talking to people across campus to learn what they do, how they do it and whether it’s effective,” said Kucker, an alumnus of UC Berkeley who earned his Master of Business Administration from Texas A&M University. “I evaluate internal controls to determine if they are working as clients think they should, and if not, I help them come up with ways to do it better.”
Kucker is UC Merced’s first internal auditor, taking over from the Office of the President. Before his appointment here, he spent four years at the University of the Pacific as its senior internal auditor. He knew eventually, UC Merced would grow large enough to warrant its own internal auditor, and when the position became available, he applied.
He was already familiar with the area before he arrived. Originally from Ohio, his family moved to California in the 1970s when he was a child. His family settled in Oakdale and his father worked as a geneticist, researching characteristics in local cattle herds.
He also remembers the area before UC Merced’s arrival.
“I have memories of running cross country races at Lake Yosemite and playing golf at the Merced Country Club and at the Merced Hills Golf Course — the site on which UC Merced now sits,” he said. “Back then, I never would have imagined that one day I’d be working inside buildings covering those old fairways.”
Today, Kucker is a regular at the monthly management services officer/administrative officer (MSO/AO) meetings, where he gives a short presentation on internal audit monthly. While internal audit might not sound exciting, it is a critical and necessary function for the campus.
“Efficiencies are a big thing because we are so new,” he said. “It’s fun studying the whole organization.”
It has been a great learning experience, he added. As internal auditor, he studies what units do, how they operate, their responsibilities and more.
“I get to see the bigger picture,” he said. “If there’s a breakdown in one department, you can see the impact it can have on the whole campus. The more people I talk to, the more I can see how the whole organization works together.”
And, in regards to the not-so-nice perception some have of auditors, his outreach is making headway.
“I want to help protect departments. While there are some auditors out there who are out to ‘get’ people, I don’t enjoy that.
“My job is to ensure that an operation doesn’t put the campus at risk and to make sure outside auditors don’t ‘catch’ us because we’re doing things the right way to begin with.”