Risky business: New resources help assess challenges in reporting process

The processes for compiling and presenting financial and federal program reports contain many areas of risk, such as reorganization or personnel changes, and new or revised guidance and rules.

To help governments deal with the many possible challenges, our Office has issued two new risk assessment worksheets, one relating to financial reporting and the other to federal programs. Both are available in the Audit Resources section of our website: portal.sao.wa.gov/PerformanceCenter/  Continue reading

Mosquito Control Districts: Classifying and assessing properties in proportion to the benefit received

Wetlands 2In May 2016, local governments reached out to the State Auditor’s Office with concerns that mosquito control districts were not following state law regarding annual assessments for district operations.

RCW 17.28.255 requires a mosquito control district to annually classify the properties within its boundaries in proportion to the benefits derived from the district’s operations. Then, the district must apportion and assess those properties; the assessments are to be collected with the general taxes of the county or counties covered by the district boundaries. Continue reading

Preparing for audit: Tips for success

audit checklistWashington’s state and local governments regularly undergo a wide variety of audits with differing objectives. These audits assure you and the public that financial data is accurate and public resources are properly safeguarded, that the government complies with various regulations and its programs are run effectively. The audit process is an irreplaceable tool to help ensure your agency’s financial and operational affairs are in order. But facing an audit – especially your first – may seem daunting. If you know what types of audits to expect, you can devise strategies to prepare for each, and likely achieve better results as well.

While state law (RCW 43.09) requires the State Auditor’s Office to audit all public funds, your government may also be audited by others, such as granting agencies or the Department of Revenue. A good first step on the road to easier audits is to prepare a list of all known and likely audits. Review your government’s past audit reports and ask colleagues if they know of audit requirements for their departments and programs. Most state or federal auditing offices can tell you if they have any planned or mandated audits for your government approaching, and will share their expected timeline so you can begin to prepare.

To learn more, read our top 10 tips on how to prepare for an upcoming audit.

Auditor’s Office announces staff changes

We are excited to share a couple of staff appointments that have occurred this year:


Tina Watkins, CPA, accepted the appointment of assistant director of Local Audit in February 2017. Tina has been with our Office for 23 years. She started with Team Vancouver, where she became an assistant audit manager and eventually the audit manager. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated strong leadership, outstanding client relations and professionalism. Tina previously was a program manager for Fire Districts and is the program manager for Counties.


Lindsay Osborne accepted the appointment of Team Vancouver Audit Manager in April 2017. Lindsay has been a valuable member of the Office for more than 12 years! Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a dedicated, hard-working and motivated team member. The past six years, she has supported Team Vancouver as an Assistant Audit Manager. As if that were not enough, the past couple years Lindsay has done an amazing job as the Single Audit program manager, which allowed her to collaborate with audit teams across the state to ensure consistent and accurate reporting of single audit issues.

Please join us in congratulating these two on their new appointments!

Keeping up with the GASB

Does it seem like there’s always some new accounting standard that needs to be implemented? That’s because there is! The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issues an average of three new accounting standards a year.

Change can be challenging, so it’s not surprising that many of the issues we find in our financial statement audits involve implementation of new accounting standards. In nearly all cases in which implementation was a problem, one root cause was lack of an effective process to provide the foundational planning necessary to successfully implement new standards.

To help local governments with these challenges, the State Auditor’s Office recently created a new free resource on best practices for implementing new GASB standards.

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Our Office Provides Resources for Capital Assets Accounting

Accounting for capital assets is an area of difficulty for many governments. General purpose governments have been reporting infrastructure assets for more than a decade because of Governmental Accounting Standard’s Board (GASB) Statement No. 34. This pronouncement required the reporting of many more assets than had been previously reported, including some with their own unique challenges such as roads.

The challenges to accurate reporting include voluminous records, limited information about older assets, decentralized information affecting accounting, and limited resources. Capital assets are an important part of a government’s operations, budgeting and financial statements. Properly accounting for these assets, and the liabilities that finance them, is important to presenting an accurate picture of the government’s net position (equity) and financial condition. Continue reading

Web Page to Help Governments Implement Other Postemployment Benefits (OPEB) Update

OPEBwebsiteSnapThe State Auditor’s Office has established a new OPEB web page to help local governments understand and implement GASB Statement No. 75, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Postemployment Benefits Other Than Pensions, effective for fiscal years ending in 2018.

On the web page, you will find general information about the new standards and links to resources to help you implement the new requirements.

The page also includes a list of frequently asked questions. If you have additional questions, please contact Debra.Burleson@sao.wa.gov or our HelpDesk. We want to hear from you and expand our resources.

We are preparing a survey to gather information about the types of OPEB benefits provided by local governments in the state. We expect to conduct the survey in October. Participation is voluntary, but we hope you will reply. The information we gather will help us to develop resources to assist you.

BARS roundtable sessions scheduled



boss gathered his team for a round table to discuss a new projecWe are offering the BARS Roundtable Sessions again this fall. The roundtable discussions are free, three-hour feedback opportunities open to all local governments. Past attendance included more than 400 local government representatives the last two years.

At the Roundtable Sessions be one of the first to preview the “Summary of Significant Changes to the 2018 BARS Update”. We want your feedback before the update is released in December. In addition, you will learn about upcoming GASB statements, online filing enhancements and new resources available to you. For facilitated discussions on accounting and reporting requirements we anticipate breaking up into smaller groups (GAAP, cash, entity type). Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to give us your feedback and suggestions.

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Positive Pay can help protect your organization from check fraud

check_164491487Check fraud is a common financial crime here in Washington and nationwide. According to the American Bankers Association, check fraud accounted for 32 percent of the banking industry’s losses in 2015.

To help address this significant risk area as a preventative measure. While it was created to protect the banks, Positive Pay is a great tool that can be used by state and local governments to prevent and monitor for check fraud, common types of which include duplicated checks, altered check amounts and counterfeit checks.

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