Since the 1860’s the Portland City Auditor has been conducting audits of city operations and making recommendations to improve efficiency, effectiveness and equity of bureaus, offices and functions.
About Portland’s Audit Services Division
Through the Portland City Charter, voters in Portland established an elected City Auditor in 1864 and four years later elected the first City Auditor.
Mission: The Division’s mission is to conduct performance and financial audits of City operations, and to make recommendations to improve efficiency, effectiveness and equity of City bureaus, offices and functions.
How does the City Auditor and Audit Services fit into Portland city government?
It is important to understand Portland City government in order to understand the City Auditor and Audit Services. Portland has a Commission form of government and is one of the last American cities to do so. The Mayor and four Commissioners make up the City Council, and the City Auditor is the sixth elected official. All six are non-partisan and serve four-year terms. What is most different about this form of city government from others is that the City Council has legislative, administrative, and quasi-judicial powers. The Mayor and Council members also preside over bureaus, such as Public Safety. In addition to Audit Services, the City Auditor oversees other services, such as Archives, Elections, Ombudsman, Hearings Office, and Independent Police Review divisions.
The Audit Services Division is the auditing branch of the elected City Auditor’s Office. In 1986 the Audit Services Division was formally created as an independent audit function reporting to the elected City Auditor. Also in 1986, Portlanders voted to approve amendments to the city’s charter to authorize broad-scope (performance) auditing of City operations.
The Division currently conducts performance and information technology audits, and contracts out for financial audits. All of the Division’s audit reports are available online. Jewel Lansing, Multnomah County’s Auditor in the 1970’s and Portland’s City Auditor in the early 1980’s, was the first to initiate performance audits. She is largely credited with laying down the roots of performance auditing in the Pacific Northwest.
The Audit Services Division has continued this work in performance audits and recently released an audit the team there is particularly proud of.
Portland City Auditor finds City Council grants lack competition and oversight
In January, the City Auditor, Mary Hull Caballero and her team released an audit entitled, “City Council Grants: No competition and limited oversight”. The audit found that grants or “special appropriations” made by the Portland City Council over the last five fiscal years lacked competition to ensure funds were provided to organizations best able to provide services. In addition, they found transparency was limited, as it was hard for the public to track who received grants. The audit report acknowledge that the organizations providing critical services to Portlanders may in fact be excellent, but that a competitive grant selection could help the Council ensure they are funding the most effective organizations while also making sure organizations know they are able to request funds. Because the monitoring of grants has been inconsistent, auditors said the “City [is] at risk of paying for activities that are not fully delivered, or not delivered well.”
Recommendations included those to limit direct Council grants, increase competition, and to develop procedures to improve grant monitoring.
What’s next for Portland’s Audit Services Division?
We post our audit schedule online.
In the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015, the audits below are those City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero and her team anticipate reviewing (in no particular order):
- Office of Neighborhood Involvement
- City Risk
- Multi-modal streets
- Information technology
- City grants and special appropriations
- Portland Harbor Superfund
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- The Portland Building reconstruction planning
- Green Building program
- Bureau of Development Services lien assessments
- Water Bureau service disconnects
We also have several audits that recur from year to year such as the Community Survey, which measures resident satisfaction with City services. There is also the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report—as required by the Charter, the Auditor’s Office manages the City’s contract with an outside CPA firm to audit Portland’s financial statements. Another recurring audit is the Portland Development Commission- specific audit areas are selected with input from the City Commission’s Audit Liaison Group.
Stay tuned by keeping connected with Portland’s Audit Services Division on Twitter @PortlandAudits.
Panorama: City of Portland (OR) Archives, A2012-005: Portland panorama (1871). A2012-005, 12/31/1871.