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


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2009 Reports


Fact Paper: Seattle Municipal Court Judicial Workload Indicators

December 16, 2009

The purpose of this fact paper is to provide publicly available statistics on Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) judicial workload indicators. We provide information about SMC judicial workload indicators in three sections: 1) background information about SMC, 2) indicators for which there is data currently available that could be used to assess SMC’s judicial workload, including data and trends for some of those indicators, and 3) other potential indicators of workload for which SMC data and/or involvement would be needed. This paper is not a SMC judicial workload assessment, as much of the data required to do such as assessment is not publicly available. Data is limited to that found in SMC annual reports (found for most years between 1981 and 2000), the Washington State Administrative Office of the Court’s Annual Caseload Report for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction for the years 1999-2008, and City of Seattle Law Department reports submitted to the City of Seattle’s Office of Policy and Management.


Efficiencies Audit: Parking and Traffic Ticket Processing

December 15, 2009

Efficiencies Audit: Parking and Traffic Ticket Processing December 15, 2009
Focus: We reviewed the City of Seattle’s (City) parking and traffic ticket processing operations to determine whether there might be efficiencies that could be realized to help ease the City’s current financial stress.

Results: We identified five areas of opportunity: 1) E-Ticketing, 2) Cashiering Operations, 3) Time Payments, 4) Continued Collaboration with the Department of Executive Administration (DEA), and 5) Call and Contact Center.

Compliance Audit of the Aquatic Habitat Matching Grant Program

December 11, 2009

Focus: To determine how well the Aquatic Habitat Matching Grant program complies with City Council Resolution 30719 and how well it implements City Council goals expressed in the resolution.

Results: The Aquatic Habitat Matching Grant program complies with all resolution requirements and should meet the City Council goals of:

  • Improving the aquatic habitat along creeks by supporting projects that mitigate the impact of stormwater runoff through the City’s drainage system,
  • Creating and funding partnerships between the City and community, and
  • Contributing to regional species recovery and watershed protection and restoration.

Cal Anderson Park Surveillance Camera Pilot Program Evaluation

October 26, 2009

Ordinance 122705 established a Surveillance Camera Pilot Program and required the City Auditor to conduct a program evaluation to answer the following questions:

  1. Are the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Seattle Police Department, the Department of Information Technology, and the Office of City Auditor complying with the policies set forth in Ordinance 122705?
  2. Do the surveillance cameras in Cal Anderson Park aid in deterring and solving crime?
  3. Do the surveillance cameras in Cal Anderson Park affect the public perception of safety?

We determined that City departments with responsibilities under the pilot program were in compliance with the requirements of Ordinance 122705. Because of data limitations we could not determine whether the surveillance cameras in Cal Anderson Park had a deterrent effect on crime; and at the time we concluded our work the cameras had not contributed to solving any crimes. We conducted a survey to measure the effect of the cameras on the perception of safety among respondents to the survey, and concluded that the cameras had only a minimal effect. However, our survey’s methodology limitations prevented us from confidently generalizing its results beyond our pool of respondents. We made nine recommendations for improving the City’s ability to evaluate the Surveillance Camera Pilot Program, to increase the effectiveness of the cameras, and to improve departmental compliance with the requirements of Ordinance 122705.

Read Report Highlights


Audit Indicators for City-chartered Public Development Authorities (PDAs)

June 25, 2009

The Office of City Auditor conducted a risk analysis of City of Seattle-chartered public development authorities (PDAs). The purpose of the risk analysis was to identify potential risks associated with PDA operations and prioritize the sequencing of potential PDA audits based on the risk factors. We identified the risks during a survey that focused on each PDA's mission, governance and financial status. We also identified recent PDA accomplishments, opportunities and challenges to offer a broader context for considering the risk factors and audit priorities.


Seattle District Council System Needs Renewal

June 22, 2009

Focus:
The primary objectives of our review of Seattle’s district Council/City Neighborhood Council system were to determine whether the system is fulfilling the purposes specified for it in Seattle City Council Resolutions 27709 and 28115, and to identify recommendations for improving the system.

Results: We found that the district council/City Neighborhood Council system only partially fulfills the requirements of City Council Resolutions 27709 and 28115.

We found three significant issues the Seattle City government needs to address:
1. Clarify the objectives of the district council/City Neighborhood Council system: is the emphasis on information or policy?
2. Clarify the City’s role in district council governance, because City involvement in governance issues such as membership has contributed to conflict in some cases.
3. Clarify the level of staff support the City will provide to district councils, the City Neighborhood Council, and other groups.

Read Report Highlights

Department of Neighborhoods Responses to the District Council System Audit Report


Management of City Trees

May 15, 2009

Focus:
To review the City’s management of Seattle’s trees in the following areas: 1) the actions taken by the City and other stakeholders to implement the Urban Forest Management Plan; 2) the challenges the City faces in attaining and sustaining the Urban Forest Management Plan’s goals; and 3) the approaches that may be useful for future tree management efforts.

Results: While the City has identified tree preservation and increased tree canopy as priorities and individual City department efforts are underway to implement these priorities, we identified the following challenges to the City’s tree management efforts. The six most complex challenges are:

  1. The City’s current tree management framework needs to be strengthened to:

    • Ensure that the organizational entities established in the Urban Forest Management Plan are operational and effective in supporting and sustaining the City’s urban forestry goals;
    • Unify all City departments behind a single mission through clear and demonstrated leadership by the Office of Sustainability and Environment;
    • Develop a single, overall strategic plan for implementing the Urban Forest Management Plan that: translates the plan’s goals and objectives into specific activities so that managers and staff can be held accountable; describes measures to assess progress towards achieving goals and objectives; what external factors could impact the plan and how these factors could impact achieving the plan’s goals and objectives; and how the plan will be evaluated to know whether the City is on track or if adjustments need to be made to meet the overall goals.

  2. Stronger cooperation and coordination is needed between stakeholders to resolve conflicts as urban forestry goals compete with utility and transportation infrastructure for limited space in the public right-of-way;

  3. Increased emphasis on public outreach and education is needed to promote property management of privately owned trees and to encourage new tree planting to sustain and expand the City’s tree canopy;

  4. A tree inventory is needed for making sound resource management decisions;

  5. City goals need to include realistic funding assumptions; and

  6. Effective development and enforcement of new tree regulations are needed to protect and increase the City’s tree canopy.

Read Report Highlights


Audit of Comcast's Compliance with the City of Seattle's Cable Customer Bill of Rights

May 13, 2009

Focus: To determine the extent to which Comcast adhered to the City of Seattle’s Cable Customer Bill of Rights.

Results: We found that Comcast fully complied with 36 of 50 Cable Customer Bill of Rights requirements, and partially complied with four. We were unable to determine if Comcast complied with one requirement because Comcast did not provide us with sufficient data. We could not determine Comcast’s compliance with seven requirements because either there was no reasonable way to make a determination about compliance, or no activity had occurred in the area to allow us to conduct testing. Two items were rated not applicable.

Although we rated Comcast as fully complying with a high percentage of the Cable Customer Bill of Rights requirements (72 percent), we found instances in which Comcast’s compliance was dependent upon cable customers’ knowledge of their rights under the Cable Customer Bill of Rights and their assertiveness in asking that these rights be honored.


Cash Handling Audit: Department of Planning and Development

May 4, 2009

Focus:  Ensuring that the Department of Planning and Development’s cash handling sites were not exposing the City’s money to unnecessary risks.  Reviewing the sites to ensure they complied with the City’s and the Department of Planning and Development’s policies and procedures.  Helping Department of Planning and Development management to improve their cash handling procedures and policies.

Results: Overall, many of the cash handling policies, procedures, and practices at the Department of Planning and Development’s cash handling sites appear to be adequate. The sites have adequate physical facilities for safeguarding cash, checks, and credit card slips. Only cashiers and their supervisors can enter the cash handling areas. There have not been not any robberies or fraud identified at any of the sites in recent years.   In addition, there were some issues raised in our audit that the department has now addressed.  For example, the department will now maintain a formal list of all staff with knowledge of safe combinations and keys to lock boxes.

However, there are a number of areas in which the Department of Planning and Development is not in compliance or is in partial compliance with cash handling controls.

 


 

Cash Handling Audit - Department of Executive Administration: Animal Control

March 5, 2009

Focus:
Ensuring that the Department of Executive Administration’s Spay/Neuter Clinic and Pet Licensing cash handling sites were not exposing the City’s money to unnecessary risks. Reviewing the Spay/Neuter Clinic and Pet Licensing sites to ensure they complied with Department of Executive Administration’s policies and procedures. Helping Department of Executive Administration management to improve their cash handling procedures and policies.

Results:
Overall, the Department of Executive Administration Animal Control facility’s cash handling policies, procedures, and practices appear to adequately ensure that City funds are not exposed to unnecessary risks. Management oversight is apparent at several levels in the facility’s operations. Policies and procedures are clearly defined and presented to all staff. Staff members take steps to ensure that cash or other forms of payment are safeguarded against theft. However, the processes of accepting payments and balancing could be strengthened by implementing new procedures or adding staff.

 


Cash Handling Audit Department of Parks and Recreation: Seattle Aquarium

January 22, 2009

Focus:
Ensuring that the Seattle Aquarium cash handling sites were not exposing the City’s money to unnecessary risks. Reviewing the site’s operations to ensure that they complied with the City’s and the Seattle Aquarium’s policies and procedures. Helping Seattle Aquarium management improve their cash handling procedures and policies.

Results:
The Seattle Aquarium’s cash handling policies, procedures, and practices appear to adequately ensure that City funds are not exposed to unnecessary risks. Management oversight is apparent at multiple levels in the site’s operation. Policies and procedures are clearly defined and presented to all staff. Cashier duties are segregated to ensure that the risk of fraud and errors are reduced. Daily close out procedures ensure that payments from that day are accurately recorded and accounted for. Staff members take steps to ensure that cash or other forms of payment are safeguarded against theft.

 


Review of Costs of Neighborhood Traffic Calming Projects

January 15, 2009

Focus:
To assess the Seattle Department of Transportation's cost estimating process for small neighborhood traffic calming projects.

Results:
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) does not currently track the actual costs for small neighborhood traffic calming projects on a project by project basis. As a result, it is difficult to assess the accuracy of project costs and the extent to which cost estimates vary from actual project costs for these small projects. SDOT's methodology for estimating these small projects is to use cost data for similar projects and add a 10% construction contingency. Adjustments are made to account for specific site considerations, called "add-ons". We recommended that SDOT improve its records for neighborhood traffic calming project design and construction costs. SDOT reported that it plans to implement a new work management system in two years. This should make it easier to track project costs.

Cash Handling Audit: Department of Neighborhoods

January 8, 2009

Focus:
Ensuring that the Department of Neighborhoods' cash handling sites were not exposing the City's money to unnecessary risks. Reviewing the sites to ensure they complied with City's and the Department of Neighborhoods' policies and procedures. Helping Department of Neighborhood management to improve their cash handling procedures and policies.

Results:
The Department of Neighborhoods uses cash handling procedures that adequately cover most daily operational processes. However, the following areas could be strengthened to ensure more secure cash handling practices: the protection of customer credit card information, procedures for unattended workstations, closing out procedures, processing of dropped-off payments, management oversight, receipting procedures, security, and general policy.