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

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Audit Reports:

2005 Reports

Follow Up: Review of the Seattle City Employees' Retirement System
6 October 2005

The report summarizes the Seattle City Employees’ Retirement System’s efforts to implement recommendations made in two earlier reports we issued. We found that all but one of the recommendations we made have either been fully or partially implemented by Retirement System management.

Parking Fine Collection
22 September 2005

We performed a procedural review of internal controls for the parking citation collection processes. Our review indicated that adequate internal control procedures were generally in place for these processes, with a few exceptions, and that substantive testing for compliance was not necessary at this time. However, we noted a few areas requiring either control improvements or further monitoring and analysis. We found that some control improvements were needed in the area of information security, and that improvements would be desirable in the areas of payment processing efficiency and parking citation accounting practices. We recommended additional monitoring and analysis of collection rate trends and Magistrate fine reduction trends.

City of Seattle Response to the Statement of Legislative Intent: Parking Enforcement Effectiveness
22 September 2005

In response to a City Council Statement of Legislative Intent, we reviewed the Seattle Police Department’s parking enforcement practices in three areas: 1) ticketing technology, 2) pay station enforcement, and 3) performance measures. Based on field observations and interviews with parking officials from 13 jurisdictions, we made eight recommendations to help improve parking enforcement effectiveness.
Report Highlights

Span of Control in City Government Increases Overall
16 September 2005

We issued this report in response to a City Council Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) from the 2005-2006-budget process. The SLI requested that our office produce a follow-up report on its 1996 and 1997 Span of Control audit reports. In our follow-up report we determined that the City of Seattle’s current ratio of staff to managers is 6.8. This is a higher ratio than was reported in our 1996 and 1997 span of control reports. Five of the City departments that we assessed in 1997 that exist today have increased their span of control ratios while two departments had decreases. The Seattle Fire Department had the same ratio (4.5) in 2005 that it had in our 1996 report.

Climate Change Will Impact the Seattle Department of Transportation
09 August 05

Government leaders around the world have acknowledge that climate change is an increasingly urgent issue and is likely to have a significant financial impact on the City of Seattle and affect a wide range of functions, including electricity generation, water availability, and street conditions. We conducted this review of the Seattle Department of Transportation to explore how changes in the region's climate could affect the department's functions, services, and infrastructure.
Report Highlights

Securing Capital Funding
10 June 05

We investigated best practices regarding reliance on unpredictable funding sources for capital projects. We reviewed information from the Government Finance Officers Association and the Federal Office of Management and Budget, and also interviewed staff from seven cities similar in size to Seattle. We found that the jurisdictions we surveyed do not proceed with capital projects without, at a minimum, some form of written agreement from expected external funding sources, or an advance plan in place to cut costs if revenues don’t meet predictions.

Construction Contract Review
14 June 05

We reviewed construction contract management practices to determine: 1) how the City met the four primary goals of contract management (efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and equity); and 2) whether City departments established and executed sufficient controls over their construction management practices. We compared department practices and project documentation against a standard template of best practices developed by our office over the last several years. In addition to a number of department specific recommendations, the report offers three City-wide recommendations regarding increasing consolidation of services into Seattle Public Utilities, ensuring a consistent system for document management for use by all departments, and improving equity by discontinuing the practice of adding work at additional sites after a contract is issued.
Report Highlights

Business Taxes and Licensing Review
18 May 05

We performed an internal controls review of the City’s business taxes and licensing functions and policies, which focused on controls that could have a significant financial impact on the City. We found controls were adequate, overall. However, we found that the City is not maximizing recoveries of tax and licensing revenues through its tax audit and enforcement efforts, due to an insufficient level of resources in these areas. Increasing resources could result in several million dollars of additional revenue recoveries for the City. The City is doing a good job in directing the tax audit and enforcement resources they do have to the most value-added activities for the City. We also noted several other control issues, including several dealing with inadequate separation of duties. Management has already addressed several of the issues and has a plan to address the others.
Report Highlights

Homeland Security Funding and Liabilities
04 February 2005

We conducted this review to attempt to identify the full costs of the City's homeland security efforts to date. Approximately 47 percent of the $85.5 million spent on homeland security activities (such as achieving compliance with post-9/11 federal guidelines or implementing physical security enhancements) came from grant sources, but the City has also relied on significant contributions from its General, Operating, and Capital Improvement funds. Combined, City taxpayers and ratepayers have funded $45.5 million, or 53 percent of the total homeland security funding. Sustaining this level of effort will create funding challenges for the City.

Review of Seattle Channel Practices
04 February 2005
We determined that Seattle Channel established programming policies to ensure that its programs are fair and objective. We found that programming during prime viewing hours emphasized culture and history programs in 2003, and general interest programs in 2004. The largest percentages of total airtime in our sample were allocated to live and taped broadcasts of City Council meetings in both 2003 and 2004. The meetings were broadcasted live, and were generally replayed within 24 to 48 hours at varying times to provide convenient access for viewers.

Low Income Rate Assistance Programs Follow Up
14 January 2005
The primary objective of the review was to determine whether recommendations in the original report were implemented. We found that the recommendations made by our office have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented with some modification by the Utility Assistance Program management.

Improving the City's Construction Project Closeout Process
19 January 2005

We found that several departments have established and adhered to effective construction project closeout procedures, including Seattle Public Utilities, the Department of Executive Administration, and Seattle City Light's Generation Branch. We recommend that those departments and divisions without formal policies and procedures develop them. The procedures that are in place could be improved by including three additional elements: 1) providing for training of the project client in using new or unfamiliar technology, 2) establishing a practice of routine inspection of infrastructure before construction warranties expire, and 3) ensuring that post-project evaluations are conducted, and lessons learned shared among staff with responsibilities for construction project planning, design, project management, and construction management.
Report Highlights

2005 Annual Report