The Office of City Auditor conducts performance audits of City of Seattle programs, departments, grantees, and contracts. It also conducts non-audit studies to provide City of Seattle decision makers with timely information. In addition, our office facilitates and advocates for effective design and rigorous evaluations of City programs.
April 13, 2017
Focus: City Councilmember Mike O’Brien requested that we review development projects that participated in Seattle’s Incentive Zoning program to gain extra floor area in exchange for providing an affordable housing public benefit. Our objectives were to: 1) report the number and location of projects since 2006 that participated in incentive zoning for affordable housing, 2) whether the projects’ affordable housing contributions were accurately calculated, and 3) whether and when affordable housing contributions were secured.
Results: We identified two projects that had received extra floor area that had not made affordable housing contributions; these contributions had an estimated value of about $5 million. We found discrepancies between several projects’ source documents and information in the data system related to extra floor area gained and contribution amounts owed. We also found 10 projects that made late affordable housing payments by an average of 9 months. We make 22 recommendations to improve program management, accountability, oversight, internal controls, reporting and transparency, customer service, and to adjust program fees.
April 10, 2017
Focus: To inform our work on the Audit of New Customer Information System (NCIS) Implementation, with the assistance of the City's Chief Technology Officer, we selected Gartner, Inc. to write a best practices report, based on their experience working with public agencies, on ways to manage information technology projects effectively.
Results: Gartner's report provides a high-level overview of best practices for government portfolio and project management. The report's contents and recommendations are organized by stages of the project life cycle, including initiation, planning, execution, and monitoring and control. Please note that the report's content and recommendations are the opinions of Gartner and may need to be tailored to fit the needs of the City of Seattle.
April 10, 2017
Focus: At the request of City Councilmember Tim Burgess, we audited Seattle City Light's (SCL) and Seattle Public Utilities' (SPU) implementation of their new billing system, NCIS. The City Council had learned that the project was a year late and approximately $34 million over budget, and some members were concerned about whether the Council was receiving timely and accurate information about the project's status.
Results: We found that the NCIS project took longer and cost more than originally estimated because of an unrealistic initial schedule, additions to the scope, project staff who were challenged by the project's size and complexity, and project leaders' decisions to prioritize quality over timeliness. An extended project schedule resulted in increased labor costs for both City staff and the primary consultant on the project, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Communication with the City Council was hampered by the lack of an effective reporting mechanism, a high degree of uncertainty behind early cost estimates for large, complex information technology projects, and financial reporting that was not designed for project oversight purposes. We also found that although the project team complied with City rules for the use of QA experts, the Executive Steering Committee could have acted more quickly to resolve or lower the probability and impact of 6 high risks identified by the QA expert. We provide a timeline of key project decisions and formal communications about those decisions to the City Council.
March 28, 2017
August 10, 2016
Seattle City Light Billable Services Audit
Focus: The objectives for our audit of City Light service connections and related services were to: (1) Determine whether internal controls over the billing and revenue collection process were designed properly and operating effectively, including controls to help ensure the accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of billing, and to ensure that all funds collected were deposited into the City Treasury; (2) Identify control weaknesses in the billing and revenue collection process and make recommendations for strengthening controls; (3) Determine through sampling of billing transactions whether the customer was billed accurately, completely, and timely, and whether all revenues were collected timely and appropriately deposited.
Results: Through our testing of 100 time and materials service connection projects and our review of City Light's billing and revenue collection processes, we identified both control weaknesses and billing inaccuracies. In some cases we found evidence of either over or under billing for services. We also identified billing adjustments that were not supported with sufficient documentation. If billing for new and related services is not well controlled over time, unrecovered billable costs due to customer under billing may need to be recovered in the form of higher electric utility rates. We categorized our findings into five main areas: 1) completeness and accuracy of billing, 2) timeliness of billing and revenue collection, 3) cash handling, 4) monitoring and oversight of refunds, and 5) control environment. Although we did not identify specific instances of fraud, the control weaknesses we noted could create opportunities for fraud.
We made 18 recommendations to help improve the accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of City Light's billing and revenue collection processes. One of these recommendations is for City Light to follow-up on billing discrepancies identified during the audit of $10,000 or more, including two projects with adjustments totaling $253,000, to determine if additional customer billing or refunds are appropriate. City Light's formal response to our audit is in Appendix A of the report. City Light generally agreed with our recommendations.
August 3, 2016
The City of Seattle is considering implementing an acoustic gunshot locator system as a pilot project, and the City Council requested short summary of the current literature on acoustic gunshot locator systems and the essential factors for conducting an evaluation. This Research Brief identifies ten things that the City should consider in advance of implementing the system to enable a rigorous evaluation of the pilot project to ensure that the system is producing the desired outcomes for Seattle.
June 8, 2016
Focus: When the Seattle City Council approved the reauthorization of the Metropolitan Improvement District (MID) and its expansion into Belltown in May 2013, they included a performance audit requirement in the authorizing legislation, Ordinance 124175. As specified in this ordinance, the audit's primary purpose was to assess whether, three years after implementation, Belltown has received the general types and levels of services described in the MID Business Plan.
Results: We concluded that the Belltown is receiving the general types and levels of services described in the MID's April 18, 2013 Business Plan, including the services outlined in the Belltown Program Implementation Plan that is part of the MID Business Plan.
June 2, 2016
Focus: To report on the implementation status as of December 2015 of 453 recommendations from audit reports issued by our office from January 2007 - December 2015.
Results: As of December 31, 2015, 75 percent (337 out of 453) were implemented, 13 percent (60.5 out of 453) were pending, and 12 percent (55.5 out of 453) were categorized as no further follow up planned.
April 28, 2016
This research brief addresses one component of a comprehensive public health approach to addressing drug abuse -- the safe disposal of unused prescription drugs. Safe disposal of unused prescription drugs, especially opioid pain relievers, reduces the risk of nonmedical use that might lead to drug abuse, including heroin addiction.
On April 4, 2016, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Resolution 31654 expressing the City's support for an effective, countywide safe prescription drug disposal program, including controlled substances, and requesting local pharmacies and the Seattle Police Department to install drug disposal drop-boxes across the city: http://seattle.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2598093&GUID=9551D2DD-0DDA-46AF-A2CF-7617D347C467
April 18, 2016
This document is the first in an anticipated series of reports regarding "The Seattle Minimum Wage Study" (SMWS). The Seattle City Council commissioned the study as part of Council Resolution #31524, adopted by unanimous vote on June 2, 2014. The resolution called for the City of Seattle to contract with a group of academic researchers to conduct a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation of the City's minimum wage ordinance, passed by the Council that day. In December 2014, the City executed a contract with the University of Washington (UW) to conduct this evaluation. Seven UW faculty, in collaboration with two economists from the State of Washington's Employment Security Department, comprise the SMWS investigator team. This report summarizes the findings from the baseline data collection from employers, workers, and area prices. The findings reported here are descriptive and do not examine the short- or long-run impacts of Seattle's minimum wage ordinance on businesses, workers, or the local economy.
April 11, 2016
Seattle Police Department Overtime Controls Audit
Focus: Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole asked us to conduct an audit of the Seattle Police Department's (SPD) overtime controls. Specifically, we were asked to review whether there was adequate leadership, management oversight, and supervisory control to manage SPD's overtime spending. Over the past ten years SPD's overtime expenditures have almost doubled and have significantly exceeded SPD's overtime budget. In 2015, SPD spent $24.2 million on overtime. SPD's overtime expenditure trend has caused concerns for the City Council and the City Budget Office, as well as for SPD management.
Results: We identified significant gaps in SPD's overtime internal controls that led to overtime errors and inefficiencies, including duplicate payments of overtime. We found overtime control weaknesses in six major categories: policies and procedures, budgeting, operational controls, management controls, special events, and off-duty work. We offer thirty recommendations to address these weaknesses. SPD agreed with all of our findings and recommendations.
April 1, 2016
Youth Violence Prevention
March 9, 2016
April 29, 2015 - Presentations on Seattle Juvenile Domestic Violence
Juvenile Domestic Violence in Seattle: Understanding the Problem and How Best to Address it
Diagnostic Analysis: Opportunities for Evidence-Based Technical Assistance
Resource Guide: Opportunities for Evidence-Based Technical Assistance
October 14, 2015
October 14, 2015
October 14, 2015
School Discipline Reform
October 16, 2015
July 17, 2015
July 24, 2013
July 25, 2016
April 18, 2016
Since 2008, our office has published a number of reports in the area of public safety. These reports are a mix of traditional audits and non-audit projects.
Links to reports from 2012 and years earlier will take you to the Seattle.gov Archive web site.
In addition to our published reports, we are currently:
- Continuing program evaluation work for Career Bridge and SYVPI, and
- Acting as the project manager/liaison for three federal grants related to improving law enforcement in the City.