Our mission at the Office of City Auditor is to help the City of Seattle achieve honest, efficient management and full accountability throughout City government. We serve the public interest by providing the City Council, the Mayor, and City department heads with accurate information, unbiased analysis, and objective recommendations on how best to use public resources in support of the well-being of the residents of Seattle.
What the Office of City Auditor Does
Many of our reviews are made in response to specific concerns or requests from City Councilmembers. If resources are available, we will respond to specific requests from the Mayor, department heads, and residents. We will also independently initiate reviews to fulfill our mission.
Our reviews cover the entire spectrum of City activities. For instance, reports we have issued on topics of Citywide influence include: Management of City Trees, District Councils, Span of Control, Citywide Collections, and Special Events Permitting. Reports on department-specific topics include: SMC Citation Processing, Seattle Public Utilities Delinquent Accounts, Department of Planning and Development Code Enforcement, and the Seattle Police Department's Handling of Bias Crimes Enforcement. Reports on general topics include: Cable Customer Bill of Rights Compliance and Indigent Public Defense Services.
Types of questions the Office of City Auditor answers:
- Are City programs being carried out in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and is data furnished to the City Council and the mayor on these programs accurate?
- Are programs achieving desired results?
- Are there better ways of achieving program objectives at lower costs?
- Do opportunities exist to eliminate inefficient use of public funds and potential waste?
- Are funds being spent legally, and is accounting for them accurate?
- Are there ways to improve the quality of service without increasing costs?
- What emerging or key issues should the Mayor and City Council consider?
The office's work is performed in accordance with the Government Auditing Standards issued by the Comptroller General of the United States. These standards provide guidelines for staff training, audit planning, fieldwork, quality control systems, and reporting of results. In addition, the standards require that external auditors periodically review our office's policies, procedures, and activities to ensure that we adhere to these professional standards.
Relevant and Timely
We perform work which meets the needs of City Councilmembers, the Mayor, department heads, and Seattle residents. We strive to plan our work so that it is relevant for important meetings and hearings and before additional funds are committed or lost. To determine which reviews we should undertake we assess City departments, organizations, programs, activities, and functions using the following criteria:
- Level of City Council, Mayor, public and media interest
- Relative risk and exposure
- Significant environmental changes
- Service management problems
- Quality of internal controls
- Risk of losing outside funding
- Historical problems or concerns
- Potential of audit topic to benefit more than one department
The type of product resulting from a particular project depends on the project's objectives and the needs of the Mayor, City Council and/or the City's executive managers. We communicate the results of our work in a variety of ways.
- Testimony. We testify at City Council meetings on the content and results of our reviews and projects.
- Briefings. At the request of City Councilmembers, the Mayor, or the City's senior executives, we provide individual briefings on the results of our work.
- Written Reports. At the completion of each review, we issue written reports. The format of our written products varies according to the content and complexity of the information we need to convey. Our written reports may be brief memorandums, or they may be lengthy, detailed reports. Regardless of the format and length of any given report, the report will cover the objectives of the work we performed, the scope and methodology of the audit or review, and the results of our work. When appropriate, our reports will include recommendations.
- Newsletters. Periodically, we issue the Office of City Auditor's newsletter, Performance Perspective. The newsletter's purpose is to highlight general management principals and to disclose successful, useful or problematic program management issues.
- Consulting and Training. Our office is staffed with individuals well versed in management controls, accounting standards, performance reviews, and principles of public administration. We are available to advise and assist departments as they set up new systems or review and assess existing systems. We participate on task forces and committees. We also periodically offer training on selected topics and encourage each department to participate in our management control classes.
Office of City Auditor Contract Research Policy
At times the Office of City Auditor must contract with external entities (e.g., universities, private consultants) to conduct social science research on topics related to the City of Seattle. It is the policy of the Office of City Auditor to pay no more than fifteen percent (15%) for reimbursement of indirect costs for contracts with external entities involving social science research. (Effective October 1, 2016)