Recently, the Performance Center provided several resources on accounting for capital assets to help local governments with financial reporting. Another group of assets, which fall below a government’s capitalization threshold, should also be considered when establishing and evaluating asset policies and other internal controls. In Washington, we frequently refer to these as “small and attractive assets,” but they these could be described using different terminology. For example, the Government Finance Officers Association refers to them as “controlled capital-type items” in its best practice guidance. Continue reading
Counties use property tax levies to collect funds for county roads. State law
(RCW 36.33.220) allows counties to divert a portion of these funds to the current expense fund. This must be done through a Board resolution, and the funds can be used for any service to be provided in the unincorporated area of the county. However, to be eligible for Rural Arterial Program funding (see below), counties must use the diverted revenues only for purposes of traffic law enforcement and must complete a certification attesting to this fact. It is important to note that this requirement is only applicable to counties with a population greater than 8,000. Continue reading
As a part of our continuing commitment to making information about local government operations around the state more transparent and accessible, we have updated the look and feel of our Local Government Financial Reporting System, or LGFRS. Our Office has long provided unaudited financial data filed by local governments on our website via LGFRS. This same tool has a new look and is now even easier to use and understand. Continue reading
Principal Performance Auditor Erin Laska was featured last week on TVW, highlighting the continued need for cyber security protection of the sensitive public data the state stewards. At the Office of the Washington State Auditor, we take safeguarding the public’s data from those who would seek to exploit it seriously. That’s why we regularly evaluate both state (see our most recent performance audit here) and local government cybersecurity controls for weakness, as well as make practical recommendations to help governments in Washington solve their cybersecurity challenges.
Are you reporting your activities in the correct fund type? Local governments should analyze the services they are providing and determine if the fund types used are appropriate.
An enterprise fund is a fund that may be used to report any activity for which a fee is charged to external users for goods or services. Continue reading
Today we are publishing the culmination of four years of audit work on Alternative Learning Experience programs, available here. There are more than 250 ALE programs across Washington, taking shapes as different as alternative high schools, online courses, or specific classes or programs in public schools.
We have seen significant improvement in compliance with the requirements ALE programs must meet. We have also documented the special role these programs have in our education system. Most students seek out ALE as an educational choice, but for students who find traditional school settings overwhelming, who have significant medical issues, and many others, these alternative approaches to education are invaluable.
In 2013, the Legislature asked us to review ALE programs by auditing their finances and measuring student outcomes. Since then, we’ve audited the compliance of every ALE program in the state with more than 10 full-time students. We’ve visited ALE programs in person, interviewed educators and surveyed students and parents. The reports released today meet the intent of the Legislature’s request.
The financial audits show more school districts are following ALE compliance requirements, resulting in lower levels of questioned costs. The performance audit work on student outcomes used qualitative analysis of information from educators, parents and students to document the value ALE instruction has within the state’s educational system. But because of ongoing data quality issues, we were not able to independently verify the effectiveness of these programs.
Improving academic data will enable Washingtonians to make better choices in our education system overall. Better data will require continued effort from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the more than 300 school districts and education programs, the Education Research and Data Center, and others. We have offered recommendations for data improvement in our report, as well as recommendations to resolve common noncompliance issues we’ve found in audits of individual programs.
Please visit our website for an interactive map of ALE programs statewide, our reports and other materials. We want to empower every Washingtonian with information about their public services.
Are you unsure when the formal competitive bidding process is required?
The Performance Center recently released two new resources to help local governments determine when they must use a formal competitive bidding process for purchases or public works projects.
While cash transactions might be less frequent than those involving credit or debit cards, or have individual low dollar values, over time small daily losses can add up. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) 2016 Report to the Nations, the average median loss when cash was misappropriated ranged from $25,000 to $90,000. Continue reading
As local governments in Washington and across the United States deal with increasingly sophisticated attacks aimed at bringing down vital government services residents depend on, the need for careful controls and cyber security measures grows ever more crucial. At the Office of the Washington State Auditor, one of the resources we provide local governments with is helping them increase their cyber security in anticipation of just such events as outlined in the New York Times below. Are you interested in learning more about how we can help? Click here to read cyber security resources.
By ALAN BLINDER and NICOLE PERLROTH
MARCH 27, 2018
ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta’s 8,000 employees got the word on Tuesday that they had been waiting for: It was O.K. to turn their computers on.
But as the city government’s desktops, hard drives and printers flickered back to life for the first time in five days, residents still could not pay their traffic tickets or water bills online, or report potholes or graffiti on a city website. Travelers at the world’s busiest airport still could not use the free Wi-Fi.
Atlanta’s municipal government has been brought to its knees since Thursday morning by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city.
The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations. In a ransomware attack, malicious software cripples a victim’s computer or network and blocks access to important data until a ransom is paid to unlock it.
“We are dealing with a hostage situation,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said this week.
The Pacific Northwest Intergovernmental Audit Forum (PNIAF) held its annual training March 15-16 in Victoria, B.C. Auditors came from state, local, federal and provincial audit agencies, representing Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia. The weather was beautiful and we had a great agenda. Continue reading