Newly elected in the state of Washington? Get your required transparency training with this one simple post.

Pensive representative of governments advising each othersFirst, we’d like to congratulate you on your election to office in Washington. Our Office does business with governments large and small, local and state all over Washington. We are happy you are here with us, helping to serve the public and make Washington a great place for all its residents.

But did you know that you are required to take training on government transparency within 90 days of taking office? Government transparency is kind of a big deal to us. We want to make this easy on you. (And you could even remind your more experienced colleagues that the training is required once every four years.)

Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC), partnered with the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), has some good training resources here for city elected officials:

Or, for even wider applicability for all types of governments, go to the Attorney General’s Office trainings here: https://www.atg.wa.gov/open-government-training

Thank you for your commitment to keeping government open and accountable to the people it serves.

2018 by the numbers: 2,721 audits. 120 trainings. 16 fraud reports … and more

Report cover shows a trail leading to a government building.On the public’s behalf, the Office of the Washington State Auditor is on the trail of good government. Check out our 2018 Annual Report, and follow along with our 350 auditors as they track public dollars and discover opportunities for greater transparency. You’ll learn about our audit work, summaries of key fraud and whistleblower cases, insight into performance audits and more.

Read the Annual Report.

 

Bank sweeps detect fraud

Bank sign above entranceA “bank sweep” is a process where you check with financial institutions to make sure no bank accounts exist for your organization that you aren’t aware of.

Work with your local bank and ask for a list of all accounts open under your organization’s name and/or  tax identification number. Also, consider contacting other financial institutions to determine if there are any unexpected accounts open.

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Lease accounting changes are coming soon

Close-up of a hand filling out lease agreement formIn June 2017, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issued Statement No. 87, a new accounting and reporting standard regarding leases. Under the prior approach, governments applied a somewhat subjective test to determine if a lease should be classified as “operating” or “capital.” Under the new approach, GASB assumes all leases (with a few stated exceptions) are just leases, eliminating “operating” leases. The primary goal of the new standard is to increase comparability across governments and provide financial statement users with better, more complete information by establishing a single model for lease accounting. The new standard will take effect for reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2019, and apply retroactively as if the standard was in place at the beginning of the implementation period. Early implementation is encouraged. To review the standard, see GASB Statement No. 87. Continue reading

Tax receivable: Are you reporting it correctly?

A pile of money and the word tax written on tiles.Are you reporting property, sales and other taxes in the correct period? Our Office recently found that some local governments were reporting these taxes when the cash was received, causing errors on the financial statements. Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement 33 – Accounting and Financial Reporting for Nonexchange Transactions provides guidance on reporting these revenue streams in the correct period.

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Employer reporting requirements for other post-employment benefits (OPEB) have taken effect

Social Man Drawing Social Security BenefitsGovernmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement 75, Accounting and Reporting for OPEB is effective for the Reporting Year 2018 (this year!). OPEB, or post-employment benefits other than pension, includes benefits such as healthcare provided through a pension plan or separately (medical, dental, vision, hearing, etc.) and other benefits when provided separately from a pension plan, such as: life insurance, long-term care, disability, and more. Continue reading

Keep an eye out for workshops to help meet annual report filing deadline

Man and woman working together at a computer.Spring will be here before you know it, and so will the annual report deadline for local governments whose fiscal year ends December 31, 2018. For those governments, annual reports are due May 30, 2019. State law does not provide for any exceptions, so we recommend starting the filing process early, and we are available to help.

Once again our Office will be conducting free filing workshops to help with the reporting process. Participants will be able to register for a one-hour time slot for individualized assistance. We will provide one-on-one assistance in person at several locations around the state or remotely through video call (Skype). We will provide computers for the in-person workshops, so if you bring the materials needed to file your report, you might be able to complete and file your report during the one-hour appointment.

Stay tuned for more details and registration!

Thinking of ‘piggybacking?’ First check out this new guide on the practice

Mother giving her daughter piggyback ride

If you are a local government in Washington state, you may be aware of RCW 39.34.030, which allows governments to use other agencies’ contracts to buy goods and services – also called “piggybacking.” But what you might not be aware of are the potential pitfalls of piggybacking, which can land you in some big trouble. The law, as written, isn’t a carte blanche license to just find any contract that is for something your government wants and buy it through that contract; it is more nuanced than that. Fortunately, the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) has written an extensive guide to piggybacking that will help you reap the benefits of this law without stepping into dangerous territory.

Local governments in Washington know the importance of cybersecurity, but need tools to address concerns

The results from our recent cybersecurity survey are in, and they reveal governments of all sizes across Washington recognize the importance of cybersecurity. However, the majority of the governments we polled lack dedicated IT staff, let alone dedicated cybersecurity staff. To address this gap in expertise and resources, the Office of the Washington State Auditor has begun to develop resources, tools and training targeted at the specific cybersecurity issues of local governments. The first group of these resources will be available soon.

Washington local governments have all taken steps to address cybersecurity concerns themselves, according to the survey results, through dedicated policies, staff roles and responsibilities, security reviews and training programs. However, without dedicated staff for handling cybersecurity, governments struggle to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity issues.

In response to our survey, governments asked us for resources that could help them in their cybersecurity efforts. Specifically, governments requested sample policies, cybersecurity risk management plans, guidance on risk assessments and training for non-IT staff as well as leadership.

Our Office is working quickly to give governments the tools they need to stay on top of cybersecurity concerns, and will have even more tools available soon.

If your government has any questions or feedback about cybersecurity issues, contact the Performance Center at performance@sao.wa.gov or call 360-725-5621.