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Achieving Honesty, Efficient Management and Full Accountability Throughout City Government Susan Cohen, City Auditor


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2000 Reports

Quality Assurance Review #1 of New Performance Hall at the Seattle Center
21 December 2000

This memorandum documented our review of project processes and procedures for constructing the New Performance Hall. We recommended improvements to the capital project management and planning processes in six areas: 1) schedule and monthly status reports; 2) general contractor/construction manager contract provisions; 3) project pricing/maximum allowable construction cost negotiations; 4) communications; 5) document management; and 6) project manual development.

Review of Consultant Overhead Rates
30 November 2000

We reviewed a Seattle Public Utilities engineering consultant’s overhead rates to: 1) reconcile the “allocated expense” applied to the consultant’s Washington office; 2) verify that non-allowable items were excluded in the Washington State overhead rate calculation; 3) reconcile the consultant’s corporate and Washington State overhead rates; and 4) validate the consultant’s cost accounting procedures for computer costs charged to Seattle Public Utilities. We identified some discrepancies related to the consultant’s computer charges, and recommended that Seattle Public Utilities exercise greater oversight to ensure that computer charges are consistent with the terms specified in the consultant contract.

Review of Consultant Labor Rates and Computer Charges
22 November 2000

This review focused on an assessment of a Seattle City Light engineering consultant’s labor rates and computer charges. We determined that salary increases granted to contract employees were consistent with the industry standard, but that the consultant did not provide all the relevant salary information to City Light. We also determined that Seattle City Light had not developed a consistent approach for payment of consultant labor rates and computer charges. We recommended that Seattle City Light develop a consistent approach for such payments.

Review of Controls Over Selected Public Benefit Features in Downtown Seattle
07 November 2000

This report evaluated downtown developers’ compliance with City policies providing opportunities to earn “bonus” floor area in exchange for certain public benefits, such as daycare centers and public plazas. We concluded that the City retained the public benefit features provided by developers in exchange for the bonus areas, and that comprehensive design reviews helped ensure that such features would appeal to the public. We recommended changes to City computer geographic information systems to improve the City’s ability to track privately owned public benefit features.

Unclaimed Property Review
02 November 2000

This memorandum documented our work performed on: 1) the alleged destruction of records that supported potential credits to taxpayers; and 2) tax refund credits, which are placed in a holding account by the City’s Division of Revenue and Consumer Affairs. We did not identify any evidence that records were improperly destroyed. However, we determined that the Division did not identify credit balances in taxpayers’ accounts in a timely manner, and the City had not developed a standardized process for remitting unclaimed property funds to the State Department of Revenue in accordance with state laws. We recommended that the Division identify credit balances in a timely manner, and that the City improve compliance with state laws regarding remittance of unclaimed property.

Improving AT&T Broadband and Internet Services' Compliance With the Cable Customer Bill of Rights
02 October 2000

This joint study, conducted by the Office of City Auditor and the Office of Cable Communications, reviewed AT&T Broadband and Internet Services’ (formerly TCI Cable) compliance with the Cable Customer Bill of Rights, as established in the Seattle Municipal Code. We concluded that AT&T’s policies and procedures emphasized customer service, but did not satisfy all of the reporting requirements identified in the Bill of Rights. AT&T indicated that its reliance on a national billing and record-keeping system precludes tailoring the system to the requirements of each jurisdiction, and could result in higher cable subscription rates.

Seattle Public Library Capital Program: Quality Assurance Memorandum #2
18 September 2000

This review was the first in a series of ongoing quality assurance reviews of the Libraries for All Capital Program, and focuses on the administration of the contracts for the design and construction of a New Central Library and temporary Central Library. We recommended that the Libraries for All Capital Program team improve its management oversight by clearly documenting the roles and expectations of all the parties, requesting periodic progress reports from contractors, and relating project schedules to project budgets. The Seattle Public Library agreed to implement several recommendations, but indicated that its current practices would provide satisfactory project documentation.

Review of the Seattle City Employees' Retirement System
18 September 2000

The Seattle City Employees’ Retirement System (SCERS) is responsible for providing retirement benefits to eligible City employees, and manages more than $1.5 billion in assets, subject to City Council oversight. We examined SCERS’ management control systems, including accounting, investing, and reporting activities, and developed recommendations regarding improved policies and procedures, segregation of duties, and financial reporting practices.

Seattle Transportation Department: Report on Budget, Accounting, and Fund Management Issues
15 September 2000

The Office of City Auditor worked with Transportation Department and the City Budget Office to hire the consulting firm of Branch, Richards & Co. to review budget, accounting, and fund management issues in the Transportation Department.

Department of Design, Construction and Land Use: Tracking Financial Management Improvements, October 1, 1999 through July 30, 2000
12 September 2000

This review of the Department of Design, Construction and Land Use: Tracking Financial Management Improvements examined financial management changes instituted by the Department between January 1, 1997 and September 30, 1999. This report also followed up the Department’s status in implementing eight recommendations contained in our 1999 report. We concluded that seven of our eight recommendations had been implemented, and recommended minor adjustments to two of the implemented changes.

Review of City Funding for the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center
25 July 2000

This financial review of the City’s 1997 and 1998 allocations of $250,000 to the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center focused on whether City funds allocated to the Museum were used in accordance with a Memorandum of Agreement between the Museum and the City of Seattle. We determined that the Museum used the City’s money appropriately, except for two payments totaling $4,198. We recommended that the City establish a receivable so that $4,198 would be withheld when the Museum submitted future invoices for payment.

Emergency Medical Transport Service Delivery Options
03 July 2000

This report on emergency medical transport service delivery options was initiated in response to issues regarding the Seattle Fire Department’s administrative arrangement with American Medical Response (AMR) for transporting basic life support (BLS) patients to medical facilities. The report summarized the advantages and disadvantages of five emergency medical transport options for City BLS patients: 1) maintaining the current administrative arrangement with AMR; 2) formalizing the current administrative arrangement with AMR; 3) establishing a formal contract with an exclusive private provider through competitive requests for qualifications and requests for proposal processes; 4) establishing formal contracts with multiple providers identified through competitive processes; and 5) structuring a managed competition process in which the Seattle Fire Department and private providers bid for BLS transport services.

Improving Millennium Digital Media’s Compliance With the Cable Customer Bill of Rights
22 June 2000

This joint review conducted by the Office of City Auditor and the Office of Cable Communications focused on Millennium Digital Media’s compliance with the Cable Customer Bill of Rights established in the Seattle Municipal Code. We concluded that Millennium’s employees had been responsive to customers and satisfactorily resolved customers’ complaints. However, Millennium did not collect sufficient data to determine the number of customer complaints and the resolution of complaints; did not consistently credit customers’ bills; and did not observe the operating hours and other requirements established in the Bill of Rights at its service centers. Millennium generally concurred with our findings and recommendations, with the exception of the recommendations regarding the service centers.

Review of Woodland Park Zoo's Cash Handling Procedures
10 May 2000

This review focused on internal control weaknesses identified during announced and unannounced visits to the Woodland Park Zoo to assess its cash-handling processes.The Woodland Park Zoo served approximately 1 million visitors and generated corresponding revenues of approximately $5.8 million. We developed seven findings and recommendations regarding the Woodland Park Zoo’s cash storage and accounting procedures.

Seattle Conservation Corps Takes Steps to Improve Internal Controls
09 May 2000

At the request of the Department of Parks and Recreation, we visited the Seattle Conservation Corps site to assess cash-handling controls following a September 1999 cash theft. We identified several weaknesses and developed recommendations to improve both physical security and cash-handling procedures.The Seattle Conservation Corps strengthened its internal controls in response to our recommendations.

Special Study of Seattle Indian Services Commission
01 May 2000

This review of the Seattle Indian Services Commission, a public corporation chartered by the City of Seattle in 1972, focused on its compliance with City policies and the Commission’s charter. We determined that the Commission complied with relevant City policies and charter provisions, and provided effective, comprehensive, and coordinated programs, services, and activities to meet the unique needs of Seattle’s Native-American residents

Seattle Public Utilities: Payment Center Cash Handling Review
10 April 2000

This report summarized the results of unannounced onsite reviews conducted at two Seattle Public Utilities payment centers in downtown Seattle. We conducted a cash count and a review of physical security features, and identified several issues associated with the use of the City’s Remote Automated Payment System. Seattle Public Utilities subsequently corrected the problems identified during the review.

Seattle City Light: Settlement Quality Meter Data Audit
22 March 2000

Seattle City Light provided electricity under contract to several locations in California, and was subject to annual meter audits as a California Independent System Operator.We conducted this review to determine whether Seattle City Light established adequate controls for receiving and processing meter data to produce usage figures for billing purposes. We concluded that City Light complied with its tariff requirements, and had adequate controls to generate accurate and complete settlement quality meter data.

City Improving Controls Over Claims Warrants
22 February 2000

We followed up on a State Auditor's Office report that found that many City claims warrants (checks) were being returned by Treasury to issuing departments to have remittance documents attached before being sent to the payees. These checks were being returned to the accounts payable technicians who originally entered the requests for issuance of the warrants into the City's financial management system. We worked with the departments to resolve this internal control weakness. Some departments have implemented new procedures; others have developed action plans and are experimenting with new procedures.

Performance Perspective - Understanding the Finances of Key Arena
January 2000

Seattle Center is responsible for the financial management of the Key Arena. We reviewed the Arena's revenues and expenses and concluded that the Center is managing the Arena's finances well. Management's comments, issued 12 April, are attached.