Auditor’s Office announces staff changes

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

Tina_Watkins_for_DAC

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_for_DAC

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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Repost from MRSC: Big Cybersecurity for Small Jurisdictions

From our friends at MRSC: Mike Kaser, IS Director for the City of Mercer Island, weighs in on protecting local governments from cyber attack. You can read the original here.

Big Cybersecurity for Small Jurisdictions

The use of technology to support service delivery by local government continues to grow. Whether it’s a 911 dispatcher, firefighter, patrol officer, utility crew member, or an elected official, all of these local government employees use technology as part of their everyday duties.

IT departments are expected to maintain operations with little to no downtime while cybersecurity incidents, like the recent global ransomware attack dubbed “WannaCry,” are one of many risks we face. Even the most sophisticated and well-funded organizations are finding their data unceremoniously dumped onto the Internet.

How can small jurisdictions with so few resources have a capable cybersecurity program in the face of today’s many risks? Simply put, determine what can be done within current resources and skill sets, then communicate honestly and openly with your organization’s leadership about where the gaps are. You must share and decentralize the risk beyond IT.

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Make sure to meet requirements when purchasing using ‘piggybacking’ method

“Piggybacking” refers to one local government making purchases from contracts awarded by another government or group of governments via an interlocal agreement or contract. Piggybacking is a convenient way to procure goods or services. However, our Office has seen an increasing number of local governments use this alternative method without completing the process properly. National purchasing cooperatives are becoming more widely used, and many of these are based in other states where the laws do not align with Washington law.

The key to maintaining compliance when procuring through piggybacking is to ensure your local government’s own bidding requirements are still met. State law
(RCW 39.34.030), which allows for piggybacking, does not relieve any public agency of any obligation or responsibility with respect to purchasing, except for the notice of bids or advertising requirements. As long as the lead agency satisfies its own requirements for advertising and posts the solicitation on the internet, the piggybacking government’s advertising requirements are considered met.

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Other post-employment benefits (OPEB) update

Diversity team in business development meeting with charts, IndiWe’re already halfway through 2017, and 2018 is quickly approaching! GASB Statement No. 75, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Postemployment Benefits Other Than Pensions, is effective for fiscal years ending in 2018.

Implementing this complex standard requires planning and information sharing. The State Auditor’s Office participates in several OPEB standards implementation workgroups to help identify and share common questions and concerns.

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