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
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
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.
May is approaching quickly, and so is the annual report deadline for governments whose fiscal year ends December 31, 2017. These governments’ annual reports are due on
May 30, 2018. State law does not provide for any exceptions, so we are available to help you meet the deadline. Continue reading
With the condition of infrastructure serving as a point of national discussion, useful life estimates for capital assets make for a timely accounting topic. Governments must maintain support for the useful life estimates they use for assets, and have a process to reassess the estimates periodically. As auditors, there are times we find governments have not kept the documentation to support the estimates they used for reporting or have not performed a recent reassessment, making it difficult to determine whether the reporting is accurate. To further complicate the matter, long-lived assets such as infrastructure and buildings can prove challenging when estimating useful lives. If the useful life of an asset, or class of assets, appears questionable and a government cannot support the useful life estimate it used or has not reassessed that estimate in many years, then this can quickly become an area of audit concern. Continue reading
At the Office of the Washington State Auditor, one of our primary functions is to evaluate the finances of governments across the state. But did you know that what we do goes beyond the bottom line, and into the very heart of what makes a government function well and connect to its residents? This emotional connection is what is at the heart of our newest video, “For the Love of Kenmore.” It’s about helping local governments in Washington find, as Kenmore City Manager Rob Karlinsey puts it, “value beyond the purely financial.”
In 2015, the City of Kenmore invited Peter Kageyama, a community development consultant and author of “For the Love of Cities,” to speak. The goal was to develop what Peter calls the “emotional capital” for both the people of Kenmore and the public servants who work to make Kenmore a great place to call home. The City invited engaged residents to hear Peter speak, and a new private-public collaboration was born, with amazing results.
Fast-forward to 2016, when the Government Performance Consortium (GPC) (a collaboration between the State Auditor’s Office, University of Washington-Tacoma and the Municipal Research and Services Center) invited Kageyama to come to speak at several cities across the state. You can watch that video summary here. After that event, many governments reached out to GPC asking how they, too, could learn more about creating this type of emotional investment in their government — to engage residents and increase trust in their government, and thereby to work better together.
This video shows one response to that demand — that along with good financial management practices, sound budgeting guidance and performance improvements, local governments can find a path toward creating meaningful (and, dare we say, loving ) relationships with the people they serve. For more information about this, and other assistance for local governments, please visit our Performance Center page.
Large state agencies will get more in-depth reviews and smaller agencies will get more frequent accountability audits thanks to a boost in funding included in the supplemental state budget approved Thursday.The Office of the Washington State Auditor requested an additional $700,000 to support accountability audit work, and the Legislature agreed. Accountability audits are a specific type of audit that evaluate whether there is reasonable assurance the state agency adhered to applicable federal or state laws, regulations and its own policies and procedures, in addition to accounting for public resources.
Many local governments use a third-party receipting vendor to provide electronic payment options to their constituents. Best practice – and state law (RCW 39.58.080) – require local governments to have all funds directly deposited into their Public Deposit Protection Commission (PDPC)-approved bank account. Continue reading