By Jennine Griffo, Continuous Improvement Coordinator with the State Auditor’s Office
Have you ever attending a training at work only to find you are expected to adopt the new technique next week? Chances are this has happened to you — how did it go? Were you and your co-workers motivated for a while, then less so as the new way slowly faded into memory and the status quo returned? Or maybe you and your co-workers skeptically eyed one another during the training, afterward marching in line to toss your materials in the circular file. Either way, the spectacular results the training promised were dulled by the daily weight of office drudgery.
Contrast this with the enthusiasm and excitement we feel when purchasing the newest iPhone or other tech gadget—the thrill of a new car or a bigger, better TV with which to watch the newest season of that hot new show. In our personal lives, we change all the time, and what’s more, we often crave and relish that change. What’s the difference between the way change feels at work and at home? In our personal lives, marketers understand what motivates us and spend their time trying to sell us those nice new products. At work … not so much. Continue reading
The Office of the Washington State Auditor has asked the Legislature for $700,000 to pay for more accountability audits of state agencies, one of Auditor Pat McCarthy’s initiatives to increase transparency and accountability in government. You can read the full request here.
State agencies routinely are subject to audits of all kinds, including regular reviews of their financial statements. This Office issues more than 2,000 audits a year of all kinds of governments, from the smallest school districts to the largest ports to state agencies. Continue reading
As state and local governments increasingly depend on information technology (IT) systems to serve the public, the need to audit the controls in and around these systems increases. To help mitigate risk and to provide best-practice guidance to both state and local governments, the State Auditor’s Office performs IT audits. Because governments collect sensitive and confidential information from the public, it is critical to have good controls to protect that information. Continue reading
After observing that governments were reporting fiduciary activities inconsistently, in January 2017 the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) released Statement No. 84, Fiduciary Activities. The statement clarifies what constitutes fiduciary activity and how to report it. While the standard provides important guidance, the State Auditor’s Office is concerned that lack of practical examples may lead government agencies to overlook or misunderstand the new requirements. For some governments, the audit implications of incorrect implementation may be significant. Continue reading
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
In 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
Washington’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.
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!
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.
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