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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sarbox ABCs for the Rank and File

Aquila, Inc., an electric utilities company, is so serious about complying with Sarbanes-Oxley Act internal-controls rules that it's requiring all employees — from line workers to the chief executive officer — to complete an online ethics training program.

Indeed, the problems featured in the program reflect that range of participants. One example, for instance, involves a meter reader who must read all the gauges on a particular route by today so that the readings would be included in this month's billing cycle. At the end of the day, however, the meter reader hasn't reached the end of the route, so a colleague offers to split the remainder of the route and suggests entering estimates for that part of it. The training materials examine the situation, explain that good internal controls practices dictate that estimated meter readings shouldn't be used for bills, and instruct the meter reader to contact a supervisor for guidance.

The course also asks employees to create a "personal action plan" listing how they can meld lessons from the training with their daily responsibilities. In such plans, employees can identify which activities in their group they should monitor to ensure their operations run effectively.

Introduced last year, the one-hour course includes explanations of "Internal Control—Integrated Framework," produced by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO). Based on the widely accepted COSO guidelines that Aquila has adopted, the course features hypothetical examples of work situations in which ethical values come into play.

posted by Brian Moran @ 10:15 AM   0 comments

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