She holds a unique position, one that reports directly to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) Board of Directors and is new to provider health care. When asked to explain what she does, she can easily boil it down to just a few words: “I am here to help people do their jobs better.”
Leanne Ashdown is our Chief Audit Officer.
“If you look at the organizational structure, you can see I’m off to the side,” she says. “This ensures my work can be independent and objective, because I report directly to the Board. My role was created for the SHA because the Board recognized that having an internal audit function is part of good governance, and it also helps to ensure the organization has good processes.”
Her career has been dedicated to internal auditing, both in the private and public sectors, and her wall is covered in numerous certificates and designations. She describes herself as a lifelong learner.
“I started Taekwondo when my children were little, as a way for us all to be more active” Ashdown says. “But we got much more out of it:
self-confidence; courage; discipline; and respect for others. The club we belonged to became our extended family.”
“I’m an auditor, but I’m also a builder,” says Ashdown. “This role is giving me both of the things I love most about my work. It may sound nerdy, but I’m passionate about internal auditing, and the opportunity to build the function in this new organization is exciting for me. I am doing what I know in a new environment, so there are tons of learning opportunities ahead of me.”
Because the role is so new, Ashdown says she doesn’t have a typical day as of yet.
“This first year is very much about laying the foundation for the function. Since I started in July, I have mainly focused on learning about the organization, getting to know members of the Executive Leadership Team (ELT), drafting the internal audit charter and finalizing the internal audit work plan.”
The internal audit charter, which outlines the scope, authority and responsibility for internal auditing at the SHA, as well as the work plan, were presented and approved by the SHA Board of Directors on November 21.
So how did she become an internal auditor?
Ashdown smiles and says, “I wanted to do something in the accounting world and it found me. I started my career at the Provincial Auditor’s Office, then moved into the business world.”
The internal audit role has suited her ever since. “The most rewarding part of being an auditor, at least for me, is seeing things I have recommended be implemented and have the intended effect. I also like that in my role I have a sightline across the entire organization and no two days are the same.”
Ashdown’s interests are not limited to reviewing and identifying opportunities for improvement in governance, risk-management and control processes, she is also a Taekwondo black belt and referee.
“I started Taekwondo when my children were little, as a way for us all to be more active” Ashdown says. “But we got much more out of it: self-confidence; courage; discipline; and respect for others. The club we belonged to became our extended family.”
Growing up on a farm, Ashdown was a horse lover and rider from an early age. She shares her love of riding with her daughter and with her community, being a past volunteer with a therapeutic riding group near Regina, and already offering to do the same in Saskatoon where she now lives.
Born, raised and educated in Saskatchewan, Ashdown credits several strong individuals throughout her life for her success. “My dad had the greatest impact on me. He was a farmer and instilled a really strong work ethic in me, as well as pride in a job well done and the importance of being honest.”
She also credits several excellent bosses along the way for influencing her leadership style, and the former Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, who inspired her to be brave in her work.