Review of City of Seattle's Civil Rights Enforcement and Outreach, November 20, 2013
Focus: In a Statement of Legislative Intent, the Seattle City Council requested that we review the effectiveness of the Seattle Office for City Rights' (SOCR) enforcement and outreach efforts and compare Seattle’s enforcement process with other jurisdictions.
Focus: This report presents an evaluation plan for the Career Bridge program.
Focus: We were asked to conduct this audit by City Councilmember Jean Godden, Chair of the City Council’s Libraries, Utilities, and Center Committee, due to the alleged theft of over $1 million of customer payments from Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) water main extension and new taps services. The audit’s primary objectives were to 1) determine if any theft of customer payments occurred, in addition to the amounts already identified during the City’s criminal investigation of the alleged fraud, and 2) review the design of recently revised internal controls implemented by the SPU Customer Service Branch over new water services (taps) business processes and determine whether they are adequate to provide reasonable assurance that a similar theft will not occur in the future. We focused our work primarily on financial controls.
Results: Our tests identified no additional fraud beyond what was already identified in the $1 million alleged theft, though taps service orders related to seven different customers (44 taps) could not be traced to a payment. Seattle Public Utilities provided a list of these service orders to the King County Prosecutor, who is currently prosecuting the case involving the alleged theft. As a result of the audit, SPU was able to subsequently bill and/or collect $190,000 in unpaid new taps work.
In our review of the internal controls design, we concluded that, in general, SPU’s recently implemented controls are adequate to provide reasonable assurance that customer payments for new taps work are received, recorded and deposited. However, we made some recommendations to improve the design of these controls.
Purpose: The Seattle Office of City Auditor contracted with the University of Washington to evaluate the impacts of the Paid Sick and Safe Time regulations (Ordinance 123698, Seattle Municipal Code 14.16) on employers and employees. This is the second of five reports that will be produced on the impact of the regulations, and describes findings from interviews conducted with 24 Seattle employers in the ten months after the Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance went into effect. Subsequent reports will cover impacts at several points during the first year after implementation.
Report Summary: All but one employer had heard about the Ordinance. Important sources of information included the media, the City of Seattle, professional networks or associations, and the evaluation study itself.
Many employers reported that they initially found the Ordinance and its requirements to be confusing. However, a few months into the implementation period most employers knew whether or not their business was affected and what they needed to do in order to comply. Employers were less aware of how the “safe time” provisions function.
The majority of employers (18 of 24) described complying with the Ordinance. For some, this required minor changes, such as extending paid leave to a few part time employees. Others had to create or re-design policies or extend leave to a large portion of their workforce.
Employers also reported about implementation challenges and special concerns. Some employers initially struggled with the recording and reporting requirements, although all these difficulties were resolved. According to the interviewed employers, the Ordinance did not affect shift swapping, the practice of allowing employees to trade shifts, for any of the interviewees. Most employers have no or moderate concerns about abuse, although a minority believes that employees abuse leave. The report concludes with lessons for other locales.
Focus: To: 1) conduct an initial assessment of SDOT's management, 2) conduct a benchmarking of SDOT's performance against industry standards, peer organizations, and best practices, 3) identify SDOT's current performance measures, and 4) make recommendations for areas that should be examined further in Phase II.
Results: SDOT appears to be an organization that has dedicated personnel focusing on meeting its stated mission, has developed a structure that appears to have the basic components to allow it to effectively maintain and improve the City's transportation system, and has many practices that are either considered as best practice or are consistent with established best practices.
Focus: To determine whether the Seattle City Employees' Retirement System (SCERS) is accurately calculating retirement benefits and to evaluate whether internal controls and oversight over calculation processes are sufficient.
Results: Our office tested a sample of retirement calculations from 2011 and 2012, and we identified errors or inconsistencies in 22 of the 30 files tested. The majority of the errors had very little impact on benefits, although they indicate the need for improved controls, support, and oversight of benefit calculations. In order to address these issues, the audit includes recommendations that SCERS:
Improvements in these areas will increase the accuracy, consistency, efficiency, and transparency of retirement benefit calculations. Additionally, the audit recommends that SCERS strengthen the management of the benefit calculation process overall to ensure improvements are lasting and to reduce the risk of fraud or abuse.
Focus: This report provides a preliminary analysis of the implementation of the Career Bridge program, participant characteristics and outcomes, and the estimated costs associated with operating the program. In addition, the report discusses challenges in the current program operations as well as additional potential challenges should Career Bridge be expanded. The program is designed to provide skill-building assistance and connections to resources to move disadvantaged individuals facing multiple barriers toward longer-term employment and/or degrees and credentials. The program focuses on jobless or underemployed adults, who may be low income men of color, may have been formerly incarcerated, or may have limited English skills.
Results: Early outcomes data suggest that the program has had some success in assisting participants in securing employment. While these jobs are generally low wage, entry-level positions, they represent an important first step in engaging (or reengaging) this population in the labor force and moving them toward longer term careers and self-sufficiency. All of the individuals the evaluators spoke with emphasized that a key component of Career Bridge is the involvement of community members and the participants in the development and ongoing operation of the intervention. This role ensures that the intervention honors the needs of this population and empowers them to a degree that traditional service delivery models do not allow. Despite the strong support for Career Bridge among stakeholders and participants, it was clear that there are ongoing challenges that the city needs to address, especially as it seeks to expand Career Bridge and transfer responsibility for program operations to a Community Based Development Organization. The facets of the program that differentiate it from other services available to this population - strong, personal relationships and grassroots implementation - are hard to replicate at scale. The report identifies several challenges associated both with current operations as well as those that have implications for program expansion.
July 8, 2013
Focus: City Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Tim Burgess requested that our office review the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to:
Results: This memo focuses on the six SDOT programs that rely most heavily on the General Fund. We found three areas within these programs for which additional work may result in General Fund savings or increased revenue: 1) leaf pick-up, 2) disabled placard abuse, and 3) credit card transaction fees. We also identified seven longer term issues for inclusion in the ongoing SDOT operations management and efficiencies analysis. In addition, we worked with SDOT to identify efficiency measures they have taken over the last several years, which they estimate resulted in annual savings of approximately $4.7 million.
Focus: City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Chair of the City Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, requested that the Office of City Auditor comment on the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI) logic model submitted to the Committee on February 27, 2013 by the City of Seattle’s Office of Education.
Results: After we reviewed the logic model and discussed it with SYVPI officials and Dr. Todd Herrenkohl from the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, who has been providing volunteer consulting assistance to SYVPI, we concluded that the questions and issues that we raised in our January 31 memo about the SYVPI logic model still remain to be answered. For example, we have questions about whether there is a clear linkage between the seven SYVPI strategies and its two long-term outcomes measures (e.g., 50% reductions in referrals to Juvenile Court and middle school suspensions and expulsions). However, our discussions with SYVPI officials and Dr. Herrenkohl led us to the following agreements:
Focus: To report on the implementation status as of October 2012 of recommendations from audit reports issued by our office from January 2007 through September 2012.
Results: We reviewed the implementation status as of October 2012 of 311 recommendations contained in 35 audit reports issued by our office from January 2007 through September 2012. As of October 2012, 64 percent of our recommendations (200 out of 311) were implemented, 26 percent (80 out of 311) were pending, and 10 percent (31 out of 311) did not warrant further follow-up. 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.
January 31, 2013
Focus: In a 2013-2014 budget green sheet the City Council requested that the Office of City Auditor develop a logic model and evaluation strategy for the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI).
Results: After we created a logic model for SYVPI, it raised a number of questions about the feasibility of conducting an overall evaluation of SYVPI at this time. Our logic model could not explain the linkages between the major problem SYVPI is seeking to address, the strategies, and the outcomes measures, which are to reduce 1) juvenile court referrals and 2) middle school suspensions and expulsions. Furthermore, we learned that due to the expedited planning process resulting from the City’s desire to respond quickly to the five youth homicides, SYVPI was based on a limited assessment that incorporated community input but examined and compiled data on only a few indicators of the youth violence problem. Therefore, as the next step in the evaluation process, we propose to engage a research partner to conduct an Evaluation-Readiness Review that would address the questions. An Evaluation-Readiness Review could also help clarify program goals and assess implementation issues (e.g., how are service providers documenting their activities?). In addition, we determined that in 2013 we can engage research partners to conduct stand-alone reviews of two components of SYVPI: 1) street outreach and 2) school emphasis officers. This work could occur at the same time as the Evaluation-Readiness Review.