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

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Audit Reports:

2006 Reports

Office of City Auditor 2006 Annual Report

Follow-up on the TriData Report's Recommendations for Emergency Preparedness, December 12, 2006

Focus: Determine the implementation status of the 111 recommendations concerning Seattle's emergency preparedness program made by the TriData consulting firm in a September 2003 report. TriData, which specializes in public safety and emergency management planning, was hired by the Seattle Legislative Department through a competitive process.

Results: We concluded that about 75 percent of TriData's recommendations have been successfully addressed by the City, while the remaining 25 percent have yet to be fully addressed.

View the September 2003 TriData report

Seattle's Design Review Program: Successes and Opportunities, December 5, 2006

Focus: Assessing the Design Review Program’s effectiveness and identifying opportunities for improvement.

Results: Overall, the Design Review Program is successful and mitigates some of the negative impacts new developments may have on neighborhoods. However, opportunities exist to improve the Program, which could result in more consistent design guidance to developers, such as:

  • Creating a dedicated team of planners to staff projects,
  • Enhancing support and training for Board members,
  • Allowing for more administrative review,
  • Reducing the number of Boards throughout the City.

In addition, creating a system that notifies planners to review projects before a building permit is issued and before a certificate of occupancy granted would help ensure that DPD approved design recommendations are incorporated into a project's final design.

Report Highlights

Review of Internal Controls Related to the Accounts Receivable System in the Department of Information Technology's (DoIT) Fiber Optics Program, August 17, 2006

Focus: The Department of Information Technology’s (DoIT) Fiber Optics Program relies on full and timely payments from participating external project partners (other government agencies) to share the cost of constructing and maintaining the City’s fiber optics network. Our focus was to determine whether the Fiber Optics Program’s internal controls help ensure that funds collected from partners are valid, accurate, and collected in a timely manner.

Results: While DoIT generally receives all funds due it, internal controls related to the Fiber Optic Program’s Accounts Receivable System could be improved to support financial information accuracy, integrity, and security to ensure that the City fully bills and recovers project-related costs from their partners. DoIT management and the Fiber Optics Program Team developed a detailed plan of action that responds to each audit recommendation and many actions are underway.

Parks Public Involvement Audit - September 20, 2006

Focus: City Councilmember David Della asked the Office of City Auditor to review Seattle Parks and Recreation’s (Parks) public involvement practices due to his concerns about controversies in the spring of 2006 regarding Parks projects. In this first phase of our review, we examined current Parks processes for public involvement, and we polled Seattle residents on their views. We received 846 responses to our web questionnaire.

Results: Based on this work, we identified three areas for improving Parks’ public involvement processes:

  • Reaching Hard-to-Reach Communities
  • Using Tools and Technology for Better Public Involvement
  • Maintaining the Integrity of the Process.

Within these areas, we found nine specific opportunities for improving Parks’ public involvement practices. We collaborated with the Department of Finance and Seattle Parks and Recreation to develop an action plan with 16 recommendations to address the issues uncovered in the first phase of our review. Parks plans to implement 14 of these with existing resources, while the remaining two will require additional funding.

Benchmarking Study: Seattle Municipal Court Revenue Recovery Operations - June, 2006

Focus: The scope of study included benchmarking Seattle with 10 other large municipal courts (or jurisdictions) to help evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the SMC’s revenue recovery functions, and to examine alternative options (e.g., outsourcing versus handling in-house). We developed a web survey tool to help gather the information from other jurisdictions.

Results: We reported findings in four areas: fees for time payments, organizational structure, collections contracts, other outsourcing, and IT systems. Based on these findings, we identified seven key issues for Seattle Municipal Court to consider.

Follow-up to response to 2003-2004 biennial budget Statement of Legislative Intent #10 on Quality Assurance for Information Technology (IT)

Focus: This report is a follow-up to our July 2004 response to the 2003-2004 Statement of Legislative Intent #10 on Quality Assurance (QA) for information technology.

Results: Since 2004, we observed significant improvements in the CTO’s monitoring of the progress of expensive and complex City IT projects. We also noted that one recommendation from 2004 remains unaddressed.

Parks Department Purchasing and Accounts Payable Internal Controls Review
Focus: The Department of Parks and Recreation’s purchasing and accounts payable internal controls related to the potential for fraud and loss of assets.

Results: Overall, we found the Department’s internal controls relative to the purchasing transaction cycle provide reasonable assurance against employee theft or fraud. We observed three areas that could be further strengthened: 1) Consistently complete packing slip coding blocks and forward them within the 2 day timeframe; 2) keep a file of authorized signatures; and 3) Discuss the definition of fraud and the consequences of employee fraud in the resource materials related to department purchasing. The Department of Parks and Recreation responded with a plan to address each of our findings and recommendations.

Pro Parks Levy Oversight Review
23 January 2006

Focus: To address citizen concerns about the role of the Pro Parks Levy’s Citizen Oversight Committee, the timing of presentations of budget and financial information to the committee, and overhead costs related to Pro Parks Levy projects.

Results: In response to our findings, Parks developed an action plan for the Pro Parks Levy Citizen Oversight Committee (Committee). Elements of the plan include: establishing guidelines for Committee discussion of expenditure issues, clarifying roles with and soliciting ideas for improvement from Committee members, establishing a schedule for Committee action, and developing a primer on project costs. The primer was approved by the Committee in November 2005. It includes cost detail for three levy projects, an explanation of how overhead costs are calculated, and answers to frequently asked questions.