About Metro’s Audit Shop
The Metro Auditor’s Office mission is to make Metro programs more transparent, efficient and effective and to ensure that its activities are accountable to citizens. We do this by conducting independent and objective assessments and reporting our findings and recommendations.
It is our vision to be completely relevant and efficient, choosing the right areas to audit and completing audits quickly so that Metro can constantly improve its services and be accountable to the public.
The Metro Charter created the office of Metro Auditor, to be elected at large for a four-year term, beginning in 1995.
So far in 2016, reports have been released on the financial condition of Metro, a follow-up audit on travel practices and ethics, and an audit on community planning and development grants.
In addition to performance audits, the Metro auditor also publishes annual reports and peer reviews.
The Metro Accountability Hotline, administered by the Metro Auditor’s Office, gives employees and citizens an avenue to report misconduct, waste or misuse of resources in any Metro or Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission facility or department.
seems like a pretty unique government structure. Can you describe it?
It is quite unique. Metro is one of only two regional governments with elected officials in the country. It encompasses Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties and is governed by a nonpartisan council, with six district councilors, each representing different parts of the region. Metro’s council president is regionally elected. The region represents 1.5 million people in 24 cities and three counties.
Map of the Metro area, indicated with the blue border.
When it comes to transportation planning, Metro is the federally mandated metropolitan planning organization that develops an overall transportation plan and to program federal funds through the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT). JPACT is comprised of locally elected officials from across the region. They strategize how to use federal funds and are high-level decisions-makers.
The Metro Council also oversees the Metropolitan Exposition and Recreation Commission, or MERC. MERC Commissioners are appointed by the Metro Council based on the recommendation of their local area governments. MERC has seven members who represent the city of Portland, Metro, and one each for Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. The commissioners serve four-year terms.
Services of Metro:
So, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Architecture and auditing seem very different— do you see any similarities?
Both professions focus on the details while keeping an eye on the big picture. Architects balance aesthetic considerations with the practical needs of the people who will use the building they design. Performance audits have to balance similar considerations. Effective auditing combines practical information with creativity to produce a report that the public, decision makers and managers can use to understand the need for improvements. In audit reports we choose the words, tone and data points we think will motivate change. This seem analogous with the choices an architect would make for the materials, color and details of a building.
Prior to becoming an auditor, what did you do?
In undergrad, I studied International Relations and Economics. While in school, I studied abroad in Spain, Kenya, and Tanzania. After that, I served as an AmeriCorps member working on microfinance programs at Mercy Corps. In graduate school, I pursued a Master’s degree in International Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I moved back to Oregon shortly after grad school and worked in state government as the Senior Economist in the economic development department. While there, I did financial and economic analysis of industry trends and business incentives.
How did you get your start in auditing?
In my position as the Senior Economist, I found that I wanted to point out ways we could improve. There were strategies I thought could help, and recommendations I wanted to make. Essentially, I wanted to recommend evidence-based policy— which is similar to what auditors do. I learned about the performance auditing in graduate school when the Government Accountability Office did recruiting visits. In Oregon, I did some informational interviews with local government auditors. In 2008, I started my first auditing position with Metro as a Senior Management Auditor.
What made you stay in auditing?
When I came to Metro, I enjoyed the structured approach to auditing that the office followed. I appreciated and found helpful the office’s commitment to a high level, quality reporting based on the leadership of Jewel Lansing and Gary Blackmer. Suzanne Flynn, the Metro Auditor I worked for, was committed to the development of staff, and this is something I strive to do as well.
As a Senior Management Auditor and then as a Principal Management Auditor with Metro, I really enjoyed the variety of topics I worked on. I also liked getting into the weeds and the structure of the workflow in performance auditing— the different phases. Programs at Metro tend to be innovative, willing to take risks to move things forward, and have long-term thinking as part of their philosophy. Prior to becoming the elected Auditor of Metro, I had the opportunity to get a good sense of the different parts that make up Metro. I conducted audits on internal services such as payroll, IT, and policy audits around solid waste planning and transportation planning.
You became the Metro Auditor fairly recently. What was the election process like? How’s it going so far?
I decided to run at the end of 2013, and ended up running unopposed. Running unopposed takes some of the pressure off, but once you commit to running there is a method and timing involved in completing everything you need to complete—the filing deadline, creating a website, and outreach. I took office in 2015 for a four-year term and am now about halfway though.
One of the things I am most proud of accomplishing in the past two years is putting such a strong team together. There were three vacancies when I took office, as my position needed to be filled, Mary Hull Caballero became Portland’s Auditor, and we had a retirement. I was able to rebuild the office and with my team, keep producing high quality audits.
Creating the audit schedule is a process of gathering a lot of data and then analyzing it to identify the areas of greatest need.
We create a list of audit topics based on my discussions with Metro Councilors and department directors, the public, along with topics staff have identified in their audit work. As an office, we have a retreat and conduct a risk assessment, look at impact of potential audit topics, and consider timing and available resources. From there, I select the topics we will audit and publish the list on our website.
What are some current, or recently released audits that you are most excited about?
In February, we released an audit that provides a good picture of the challenge of auditing land use planning. It was also challenging to find a balance between the planning jargon and language the average reader can understand. In the audit, we found decreased geographic alignment between the grant project areas and the ones identified in the regional plan as priorities areas for development. We also found that the program did not develop clear expectations for grant monitoring. The deliverables for some projects were not fully met prior to payments being made. It was not always clear what amount of time should be spent monitoring or how much discretion there was to evaluate deliverables.
Right now, we are conducting an audit of the Zoo, looking at organizational culture. It is challenging to figure out how to audit organizational culture, and then communicate that in a public report. It is making us think about issues from a different perspective.
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Check out Metro’s mapping feature that uses GIS and see where the trails, neighborhoods, school districts, and more are.
Map of the Metro area with trails indicated in green.