Recent GAO report underscores the need for cybersecurity auditing

GAOlogoThe federal counterpart to the Office of the Washington State Auditor, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on Tuesday demonstrating the vitally important role of cybersecurity auditing in the information age. Vulnerabilities in government systems can be exploited by criminals looking to harm the public, as detailed in the GAO’s audit findings.

The Office of the Washington State Auditor helps local governments protect themselves from cybersecurity threats through a variety of means, including conducting cybersecurity audits on both the local and state levels. SAO also provides local governments with the training and resources they need to better understand the ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity. Responding to the increased demand for cybersecurity resources by Washington’s local governments, SAO has begun developing a new suite of materials specifically designed to address local government concerns. By partnering with governments across Washington and providing them with our valuable audit services, we help protect Washingtonians from potential cyber harm.

 

Know what to look for to prevent disbursement fraud

Fraudulent disbursements are the most A stack of cash is wrapped tightly in a chain that is secured by a padlock.common form of asset misappropriation. This type of disbursement occurs when an employee uses their position to make payment for an inappropriate purpose. They are on-book fraud schemes, which means that money in the form of checks leaves the entity fraudulently, but is recorded on the books and leaves an audit trail. In this way, entities can become victims of fraud, even when no cash is involved. Continue reading

Helping local governments avoid costly cybersecurity breaches

Searching For VirusOur Office is dedicated to helping local and state governments across Washington avoid the potentially devastating effects of cybersecurity attacks. Much of the public data governments hold is sensitive in nature, and needs to be carefully guarded. That’s why we are in the process of developing new, user-centered cybersecurity resources specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of your local government. We want to hear from you about what resources you’d most like to see, and what issues you want us to address. Take our short, anonymous survey to give us your important feedback.

The Office of the Washington State Auditor has put together a handy guide to various organizations that offer cybersecurity resources to local governments like yours—you can find this and other resources you may find helpful on our website.

We are always listening! If you want to start a conversation with us directly, email us at performance@sao.wa.gov.

How Benton-Franklin Health District used Lean to make its immunization process work better

Kennewick, Washington: The Benton-Franklin Health District building is a clean, modern facility, shining brightly from its location tucked behind a shopping center and other businesses. The waiting room is spacious, and the interior brims with helpful pamphlets about preventing common diseases, staying healthy and knowing when to visit your doctor. The facility is designed to put clients at ease as they wait for their appointments. Health District employees care about their clients and have designed their space around their clients’ comfort.

But what about the Health District’s internal processes? Employees, championed by District Administrator Jason Zaccaria, knew their day-to-day work could reflect the peaceful, client-centered flow of their external building. That’s why they contacted the Performance Center at the Office of the Washington State Auditor. Continue reading

New resource identifies best practices for small and attractive assets

mobile_tech-202676950.jpgRecently, 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

Come try our new, improved Local Government Financial Reporting System

2018-04-26_LGFRS_publish_snapshotAs 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

A first-ever comprehensive look at how Alternative Learning Experience programs work in Washington

a_students_in_map.pngToday 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.Pat McCarthy

Thank you,

patsig