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.
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
December 10, 2015
Focus: Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden asked us to review the Department of Parks and Recreation's (Parks) oversight of its lease and concession agreements. Specifically, we were asked to review whether Parks is collecting the money and public benefits they are supposed to receive under current contracts, and has proper control for the handling of lease and concession revenues.
Results: We found that all rental payments in our sample were deposited with the City and recorded in the City's accounting system. However, we also identified gaps in internal controls in two major areas: cash handling and contract monitoring. We offer seven recommendations to address these gaps. Additionally, we raise two issues for Parks' consideration related to: 1) tracking revenues and costs and 2) updating its concession contracts and use permits policies and procedures.
October 14, 2015
Focus: The Seattle City Council requested that we evaluate the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative's Street Outreach component.
Results: Street Outreach has the potential to be a valuable component of a comprehensive violence reduction strategy for Seattle. However, research indicates that Street Outreach can be ineffective and may even cause harm when it is not deployed strategically and when it lacks certain key considerations. We offer six recommendations to the City for strengthening its approach to Street Outreach.
October 14, 2015
Focus: In 2013, the Seattle City Council asked our office to develop an overall evaluation plan for the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI) and to evaluate two of its components.
Results: This paper briefly summarizes two key conclusions from the four reports on SYVPI that we have published since 2013:
1. Changing adult-run systems can yield positive results for youth, and
2. Support from City leaders can help ensure that SYVPI-related efforts are focused and effective.
October 14, 2015
Focus: The Seattle City Council requested that we evaluate the School Emphasis Officers component of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative.
Results: School Emphasis Officers from the Seattle Police Department have the potential to build trust among school students, which could help to change perceptions of the police in school and the wider community. However the program is challenged by lack of clarity in structure and relationship with the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, and it would benefit from specific goals and outcome measures. The report offers recommendations in three areas.
September 23, 2015
Focus: The purpose of the consultant review was to determine whether MERS contributed to residential foreclosures by reviewing a random sample of mortgage-related records associated with MERS from the five zip codes in Seattle with the highest foreclosure rates in early 2013.
Results: As a result of the way in which King County indexes its records and the methodology used by the consultant to select their sample, the consultant examined a sample of records that was not representative of MERS-related assignments in Seattle and included only one foreclosure. Consequently, it was not possible for the consultant to determine whether MERS-related assignments led to foreclosures. However, as a result of the consultant's work, we now have a better understanding of the issues that would need to be addressed to answer this question. Any future reviews would need the involvement of King County, as Seattle mortgage assignment documents are filed with the King County Recorder's Office.
June 30, 2015
Focus: To report on the implementation status as of December 2014 of 414 recommendations from audit reports issued by our office from January 2007 through December 2014.
Results: As of December 31, 2014, 72 percent (297 out of 414) were implemented, 15 percent (61.5 out of 414) were pending, and 13 percent (55.5 out of 414) were categorized as no further follow-up planned.
June 16, 2015
At the request of the City Council Budget Committee, the Office of City Auditor selected MEF Associates to conduct an evaluation of Career Bridge, a program designed to assist low-income men of color with multiple barriers to employment by providing them with educational and social services.
MEF Associates concluded that the Career Bridge program represents a creative approach for combining public funds with community-based activism to increase the opportunities for low-income men of color facing barriers to employment, including formerly incarcerated individuals. The report identifies several challenges that, if addressed, could improve the program. The report concludes that Career Bridge has demonstrated strong employment outcomes and has the potential to benefit the individuals enrolled in the program as well as the communities they come home to.
April 1, 2015
March 18, 2015
This audit examined the Seattle Police Department's processes and systems for handling public records requests. We evaluated whether current processes and systems include sufficient controls and oversight to: (1) ensure responses to requests are accurate, consistent, and timely; (2) provide reasonable assurance of compliance with legal requirements; and (3) and promote transparency and public trust.
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) received almost 4,700 requests for public records in 2014. SPD is challenged to respond to these requests in an accurate and timely manner because of an increased volume of requests, complex legal environment, and changes in technology. We found significant gaps in the resources and systems that SPD uses to process public records requests, and these gaps hinder SPD's ability to ensure accurate and timely responses, provide reasonable assurance of compliance with state law, and promote transparency and public trust. We make 13 recommendations in our report. Our first two recommendations address critical gaps in SPD's Public Disclosure Unit resources and systems and will provide immediate improvements to the Unit's efficiency and accountability. The audit's 11 additional recommendations will improve the Unit's access to records, reduce inefficiencies and the risk of errors, improve oversight and staffing of the Unit, and improve the Unit's communications with the public. Please note that the Seattle Police Department's final, written response to the report is included in Appendix F of the report.
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.