Utility Rates: Long-Term Forecasts Should reflect Uncertainty
Utility Rates: Long-Term Forecasts Should Reflect Uncertainty
Work to replace the aging Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network (PSERN) is falling behind on an ambitious schedule. The County must finish its work constructing radio towers before the vendor can install new equipment to meet modern standards and expand coverage. The project team plans to expedite construction by using a contract method that carries some increased cost risk. We recommend risk mitigation activities and improved scheduling and reporting to get the project back on track and strengthen accountability. Presented November 10, 2015.
Long-term utility rate forecasts by Solid Waste and Wastewater Treatment Divisions have been mostly accurate in the early years of the forecast, but over the long term have underestimated future rate increases. There are a variety of reasons for why these forecasts underestimated future long-term rates, such as changes in customer behavior during recessions or relying on uncertain planning-level capital cost estimates. Many of these factors are difficult to predict. To address this, we recommend that long-term forecasts be presented in a range to reflect the inherent uncertainty of the forecasts. This is particularly important when rate forecasts are prepared for strategic plans recommending costly capital improvement programs. Presenting rate forecasts in a range, based on sensitivity analysis of key assumptions, would provide better information to the County Council and ratepayers on the potential impact of the plan on customer rates. Presented October 13, 2015.
Follow-up on the Final Oversight Report on Ninth and Jefferson Building Project
The County Executive has implemented the recommendations pertaining to the county's lease approval process from our 2011 final oversight report on the Ninth and Jefferson Building Project (NJB). Based on one of the lessons learned identified in the project, we recommended the the County Executive streamline the lease approval process in order to be more competitive in the marketplace without unduly sacrificing risk control. Our review of the County Executive's current lease approval process indicates improvements made since the time of our recommendation and have improved the county's ability to attract competitive tenants. Issued September 14, 2015.
Follow-up on Capital Projects Oversight Final Oversight Report on Data Center Relocation Project
The County Executive has strengthened policies and procedures for lease authorization from our Capital Projects Oversight Program’s 2011 final oversight report on the Data Center Relocation Project. Based on one of the lessons learned we identified in the project, we recommended that the County Executive evaluate the adequacy of its policies and procedures for lease acquisition and amendments. Our review of the County Executive’s current lease approval process indicates that the improvements made since the time of our recommendation are adequate for preventing the county from acquiring leases or amendments without sufficient justification or review. Issued September 14, 2015.
Law Enforcement Oversight: Limited Independence, Authority & Access to Information Impede Effectiveness
King County’s system for civilian oversight of police is relatively weak compared to models in place in jurisdictions around the United States. Civilians responsible for overseeing investigations of complaints of police misconduct in King County have less authority than their counterparts in other locations. In addition, they face barriers related to independence and access to information—elements that are critical to the success of oversight. Notably, civilian oversight operations are defined by the terms of labor contracts. Consequently, the processes and authority of oversight are defined by the Sheriff’s Office and its employees, creating a conflict of interest that cannot be easily resolved. We make a number of recommendations for actions necessary to remove barriers that prevent more impactful oversight. Presented July 14, 2015 to the Government Accountability & Oversight Committee (play video) and the Law, Justice & Emergency Management Committee (play video).
Recommended Action Matrix
This interactive tools allows for search of audit recommendations and matters for council consideration from our 2015 report on law enforcement oversight in King County.
Georgetown Audit Wins Knighton Award for High-Impact, Innovative Audit
A 2014 Distinguished Knighton Award for best performance audit in the large audit shop category has been awarded to the King County Auditor’s Office (KCAO) by the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA). The report, Performance Audit of the Georgetown Combined Sewer Overflow Project, was judged on several key elements, such as the potential for significant impact, the persuasiveness of the conclusions, the focus on improving government efficiency and effectiveness, and its clarity, conciseness and innovation. ALGA noted that the audit is a thorough and well-documented examination of an issue--large capital projects--that affects a broad swath of the public. In particular, the audit clearly articulated to readers why the findings matter to policymakers and citizens. In addition, ALGA praised KCAO’s use of formatting, including headers, signposting, and exhibits, to help readers move through the technical detail to understand the important findings.
Each year, local government audit organizations from around the U.S. and Canada submit their best performance audit reports for judging. The purpose of the competition is to improve government services by encouraging and increasing levels of excellence among local government auditors. Judges from peer organizations determined that this audit was among the best of 2014. The Association of Local Government Auditors is a national audit association founded in 1985 committed to supporting and improving local government auditing through advocacy, collaboration, education, and training, while upholding and promoting the highest standards of professional ethics.
2014 Annual Report – Highlights of 2014 Performance: Driving Improvement in County Government
We are pleased to announce the Auditor's Office released its Highlights of Performance report for 2014. The report summarizes the accomplishments of the King County Auditor’s Office during 2014 and provides examples of how the Auditor’s Office improved county programs and enhanced oversight and transparency in capital projects. The King County Auditor’s Office promotes and improves performance, accountability, and transparency of King County government through objective and independent audits, oversight, and studies.
Auditor's Office 2015-16 work program approved
The Metropolitan King County approved the Auditor's Office 2015-16 work program on December 18, 2014. The focus of our work program is on performance, accountability, and transparency.
Public Works Magazine: Not-so-Risky Business
Councilmember Jane Hague and Capital Projects Oversight Manager Tina Rogers from the King County Auditor’s Office (shown at the right) are featured in a cover-page article in July’s Public Works magazine. The article describes the risk-assessment system that tracks King County’s largest capital projects. For more information about the Auditor’s Office Capital Projects Oversight Program or the county’s risk-assessment process, contact Tina Rogers at 206-477-1036 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
External quality control review of Auditor's Office
Based on the results of a peer review conducted during the week of February 24, 2014, the King County Auditor's Office's internal quality control system was suitably designed and operating effectively to provide reasonable assurance of compliance with Government Auditing Standards for performance audits during the period January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2013. Click here to read the management letter in full.
The Association of Local Government Auditors – The Knighton Award
The Knighton Award recognizes the best performance audit reports of the preceding year. Honorable mention award was given to the King County Auditor’s Office for their 2012 Performance Audit of King County’s Investment in Information Technology.
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Advancing performance, accountability, and transparency
Audits and Special Studies
The King County Auditor's Office provides oversight of county government through independent audits and other studies regarding the performance and efficiency of agencies and programs, compliance with mandates, and integrity of financial management systems. The office reports the results of each audit or study to the Metropolitan King County Council.
The King County Auditor’s Office performs its work in accordance with applicable Government Auditing Standards.
Capital Projects Oversight
In 2007, the King County Council created the Capital Projects Oversight program within the King County Auditor’s office. The oversight program was established to mitigate capital project overruns and potential problems, contain costs, and inform decision-making processes through adequate, timely, and useful standardized reporting. Current projects being monitored are: Accountable Business Transformation, Brightwater Wastewater Treatment System, South Regional Maintenance Facility (Roads Services Division), Facilities Management Division Project Delivery Management, and Criteria for Capital Project Prioritization.
Countywide Performance Management
Since 2002, the council has enacted legislation seeking to improve the county's use of performance measures, including a 2003 motion that created the auditor-led Performance Measurement (now Management) Work Group with countywide representation. Based on a framework recommended by the Performance Management Work Group and efforts by this office to promote performance management in King County, the 2008 Performance and Accountability Act requires all King County agencies and departments to prepare strategic plans every five years, annual business plans, and relevant performance measures and paved the way for the development of the first countywide strategic plan, approved by the King County Council on July 26, 2010 . Advancing performance-based government is one of the ways the auditor's office promotes cost-effective and accountable county services.