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

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Audit Reports:

2010 Reports

Indigent Defense Services Follow-up and 2010 Audit

December 15, 2010

Focus: The report provides information on the implementation status of the 36 audit recommendations presented in our 2007 audit of the City of Seattle's Indigent Defense Services program. The report also assesses the program against public defense standards as required by Ordinance 122602.

Results. Of the 36 audit recommendations we made in 2007, 34 have been implemented or addressed and two are not being implemented. Of the 28 standards we evaluated in 2010, we found the program to be in compliance or have demonstrated improved compliance with 27 standards and partial compliance with one. Although we found that program compliance had improved since the 2007 audit, we offer 11 new recommendations. These recommendations concern attorney caseload, attorney–client contact, program oversight, judicial independence, screening for public defender eligibility, defendants' payments for public defender costs and other program elements.

Comparing Seattle City Light Employee Costs to Contract Employee Costs

November 8, 2010

Focus: We compared the cost of Seattle City Light employees’ work to the cost of using consultant contracts to do equivalent work.  We reviewed 71 contracts and found ten contracts where employees perform comparable work. 

Results. For these 10 contracts, we found the hourly cost for work by City Light in-house employees was generally, but not always, less than the hourly cost for equivalent contract employees.  Seattle City Light’s and Local 17’s written comments on the report are attached as appendices.

City of Seattle Anti-Graffiti Efforts: Best Practices and Recommendations 

July 28, 2010

Focus:  To examine how the City handles graffiti removal, prosecutes offenders, and educates the public about graffiti; to compare the City’s efforts to best practices; and make recommendations for potential improvements.

Results:  Writing, painting or drawing on public or private property without the owner’s permission is not permitted under the law in the City of Seattle (Seattle Municipal Code 12A.08.020).  The City of Seattle also has a Graffiti Nuisance Code (Seattle Municipal Code 10.07) that requires property owners to promptly remove graffiti found on their property after notice from the City of Seattle.  During our systematic, single-day physical count of four sample areas in two Seattle neighborhoods, we identified 556 instances of graffiti, including 551 common tags and 5 that appeared to be gang graffiti.  Public property was nearly twice as commonly tagged as private property.  Our web survey of over 900 Seattle residents, businesses and organizations found that views on graffiti are mixed.  The City of Seattle spent approximately $1.8 million in 2009 abating graffiti from public property, and nearly 300 survey respondents spent an additional $232,000.  We found that best practices for addressing graffiti include a multi-faceted approach, which consists of: 1) eradication, 2) enforcement, and 3) engagement/education.  We make five overarching recommendations and nine specific recommendations for improving the City’s approach to preventing and abating graffiti.

Read Report Highlights

Status Report on Implementation of Audit Recommendations 2007-2009

June 15, 2010

Focus: To report on the implementation status of recommendations from audit reports published by our office from 2007 through 2009.

Results: We reviewed the status of 194 recommendations contained in 22 audit reports published by our office from January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2009. As of early March 2010, 46 percent of our recommendations (90 out of 194) were implemented, 50 percent (97 out of 194) were pending, 4 percent (7 out of 194) had no planned action or follow-up and 0 percent were recommendations with which City departments disagreed. The report also discusses our process for tracking and following up on audit recommendations, and lists each recommendation by audit report title, recommendation description, implementation status, and date of implementation.

Follow-up Audit of Workers’ Compensation: Return-to-Work Program

June 15, 2010

This audit follows up on part of a 2007 audit performed but never completed for the City of Seattle (City) by PriceWaterhouse Coopers. That uncompleted audit covered several issues concerning the City’s workers’ compensation program. Our audit report focuses on two main issues discussed by Price Waterhouse Coopers: 1) monitoring and seeking to minimize the number of future claims by injured workers with multiple claims, and 2) making potential improvements in the Return-to-Work processes for injured workers. We provide several recommendations to improve the City’s Return-to-Work program.

Follow-up Report on 2008 Audit: Seattle’s Enforcement of Bias Crimes

June 9, 2010

The primary objective of the review was to report on the implementation status of the August 2008 audit recommendations. We also provide an additional eighteen months of data (January 2008-June 2009) on bias attacks in Seattle. The 2008 audit contained 17 recommendations to improve and/or increase the City of Seattle’s 1) response to bias attacks, 2) awareness and education about bias attacks, and 3) inter-department and inter-agency responsiveness to victims and communities affected by bias attacks. Of the 17 recommendations made in our August 2008 audit report, nine have been fully implemented (all by the Seattle Police Department [SPD]), three have been partially implemented, and five have not been implemented (though one is being considered for implementation with the cooperation of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights and the Seattle Human Rights Commission). In particular, SPD modified its electronic data system to improve the data it collects on bias attacks. This will allow the City to better understand, respond to, and report on the incidence of bias attacks in Seattle. These actions are significant in demonstrating to the public that Seattle has no tolerance for bias attacks. The City has not yet implemented our recommendation to produce regular reporting on bias crimes and incidents.

Seattle Public Utilities Revenue Cycle Audit – Water (Retail and Wholesale) Internal Controls Review

March 1, 2010

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) provides water services to residential, commercial, and wholesale water customers. SPU bills customers for their water consumption, and in 2008 collected over $150 million for providing these services. Our office evaluated the internal controls governing the charging and collecting of fees for SPU’s water services. We evaluated the policies, procedures, and operations involved in these processes.

Overall, we found that SPU had adequate internal controls for charging and collecting water services fees. While we identified no areas within SPU's water services revenue cycle with significant problems, we found several opportunities for improving controls. We have discussed each improvement opportunity with SPU management and they have committed to taking corrective action. We will follow up regularly on SPU's progress with implementing these corrective actions.