(ALGA Repost) Opportunities for Improvement: We Need to Talk

“The Yellow Book addresses communication of audit scope and objective at the beginning of the audit, and audit results at the end, but much communication happens, or should, during the audit.

8.23 Determining the form, content, and frequency of the communication with management or those charged with governance is a matter of professional judgment, although written communication is preferred. Auditors may use an engagement letter to communicate key information early in the engagement.

“Written communication is preferred”? Of course an engagement letter and discussion draft are written, and at the federal level, written is probably preferred, but the federal government is astronomically larger than any local audit office, like Jupiter is to Earth. Working under the general assumption that communications must be written, I think, will limit interaction that is critical to the ultimate success of an audit.

Because you all are auditing in a large variety of jurisdictions, I am cautious about recommending universal practices and just urge you to develop your briefing (and listening) procedures around the who, what, when, where, and why appropriate to your government.”

Gary Blackmer, former director of the Oregon Audits Division, discusses how auditors can communicate most effectively with agency heads and staff in his quarterly ALGA post, with practical suggestions for making introductions, engaging the agency in the audit process, finding context for problems, and making sure that your audit is on point. Read more here.

Accountability and Media Featured

Oregon Newsroom RePost: My First 100 Days as Secretary of State

Interested in keeping tabs on what’s happening in Oregon government? Check out the Oregon Newsroom.


A word from Secretary of State Dennis Richardson

Salem, OR—I’m excited to announce that I just passed the 100-day mark as your Secretary of State, and today I am sharing a brief report of our progress.

On December 30, an inauguration was held in the Capitol that was attended by more than 700 excited Oregonians. January 2 was my official first day on the job, and January 6 was my first official appearance at the swearing-in ceremony in Portland for 35 new Americans. These immigrants, like many of our ancestors, came from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America with hope and excitement for a new life in the Land Of The Free. This naturalization ceremony provided the opportunity for me to give an impromptu talk on what it means to be an American.

With the guidance of Oregon’s Chief Archivist Mary Beth Herkert, we’ve breathed new life into the Oregon Constitutional Challenge. Our goal is to restore our deteriorating state constitution and place it on permanent display in protected cases. The manuscript will be kept at the Archives Building and on special occasions brought to the Capitol where all visitors, including school children, can see and learn about our state’s early history and the pioneering founders who crafted our earliest laws. Please take a minute and learn about this important project: https://youtu.be/p0CbioHLoaA

For nearly a year, our Audits Division has been functioning without a permanent Division Director and with several auditor vacancies. During this time, we’ve been very fortunate to have steady leadership from Interim Director Mary Wenger. Since taking office, we have filled 75% of our audits vacancies and made continuous improvements in our processes and reporting. Recent audit work has included transportation, energy, and municipal audits and we are now focusing on education, environmental quality, foster care, and Medicaid. I’m happy to report that yesterday, Kip Memmott assumed the reins as Audits Division Director. Kip is a nationally recognized leader in performance auditing and brings to the Oregon Audits team a wealth of experience. Kip and our executive team will work together to provide the energy and leadership needed to transform our Audits Division into Oregon’s own Government Accountability Office.

The Corporations Division is the first stop for Oregon businesses. Under the experienced leadership of Corporations Director Peter Threlkel, we’ve become known for quick, friendly, and efficient assistance to businesses of all sizes. In addition, Ruth Miles is Oregon’s Small Business Advocate and helps businesses work with government agencies at both the state and local levels: http://sos.oregon.gov/businessSoS

My commitment to helping all eligible Oregon voters gain access to their ballots was demonstrated last week with the announcement that the Elections Division will restore or protect the rights of more than 60,000 registered voters: https://youtu.be/b6LIdjClC_Q These voters have either been removed or would soon be removed from active voter status. Being on the inactive voter list would keep them from receiving their mailed ballots in future elections.

My next newsletter will update you on both the decisions coming out of the State Land Board and the Redistricting Task Force. The Task Force is a multi-partisan attempt to make recommendations for how Oregon can have fair, non-partisan redistricting. Suffice it to say, the guiding principles of my administration as Secretary of State continue to be restoring greater accountability, transparency, and trust in state government.

In closing, be assured I’m taking the responsibilities of this office very seriously. I’m surrounding myself with qualified and quality women and men to lead our agency divisions. With their help, I’m doing all in my power to earn the respect and confidence of those who gave me the opportunity to serve in this important role.

I’ll continue to put the needs of Oregonians first.


Dennis Richardson

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson


Accountability and Media Featured

Audits in the News: August 17th

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

Statesman Journal – Educational ‘achievement gap’ is hurting Oregon economy

Read the story here.

“Although efforts continue to close the educational “achievement gap” in Oregon, children of color consistently fall far behind their white counterparts on key educational metrics … Another study by the secretary of state in 2013 shows achievement gaps are significant and consistent in Oregon with a notable effect on workforce preparedness for underserved populations.”

Read the audit, released in 2014, here.

The Register-Guard – LCC gets less-than-average percentage of state, local funds, thanks to enrollment declines

Read the story here.

“While most of Oregon’s community colleges are celebrating a double-digit increase in state and local funds for the next two years, Lane Community College is anticipating a more modest gain … About 75 percent of all Oregon community college students failed to get a degree or certificate within seven years, according to an Oregon Secretary of State audit released in May.”

Read the audit, released earlier this year, here.

The Oregonian/OregonLive.com – Tax-credit program may not be good target for audit (Opinion)

Read the story here.

“The Oregonian/OregonLive editorial board has begun a useful conversation not only about the ongoing challenges associated with the Department of Energy’s business energy tax credit (BETC) program, but also about the role of the Secretary of State Audits Division in addressing those challenges.”

Audits in the News

Audits in the News: August 3rd

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

The Oregonian/OregonLive.com – Ethics reforms after Kitzhaber: Which bills passed? Which bills didn’t?

Read the story here.

“More than a dozen measures dealing with ethics reforms emerged in the Legislature this year after an Oregon first: the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber amid a federal influence-peddling investigation. But just three bills passed, part of a measured approach championed by Gov. Kate Brown and top legislative Democrats … Senate Bill 9 orders the secretary of state to conduct an audit of state agencies’ handling of public records, and to report recommended changes.”

This audit is currently underway, with a scheduled release date of Nov. 20, 2015.

Medford Mail Tribune – Our View: Legislature left unfinished business on ethics

Read the story here.

“As lawsmakers look toward the short 2016 session, which also happens to be an election year, ethics reforms should figure prominently on their to-do list … Only three ethics bills passed … The third orders the secretary of state to conduct an audit of how state agencies handle public records and to recommend changes.

This audit is currently underway, with a scheduled release date of Nov. 20, 2015.

Portland Tribune – A victory for the Department of Administrative Services

Read the story here.
“Twelve new employees will work to fix problems identified in audits of state cyber security and IT operations, which the state has been slow to address. For example, the state has yet to fix some of the vulnerabilities auditors identified at the state data center in 2012. The data center is housed at the Department of Administrative Services, which is the central technology provider for state government and some municipal governments in Oregon.”

The audits division’s 2012 audit of the data center can be found here.
Another data center audit, conducted in 2010, can be found here.

Auditors at Work Audits in the News Featured

A new approach in financial accountability

Portland just released its biennial financial condition report, which is a great tool that auditors in our region use. Auditors for Portland, Metro, the State of Oregon, and Multnomah County all regularly issue financial condition reports. These reports follow the same method of looking at key financial indicators over a ten year period to spot trends. These trends may show the recovery from a problem, or could be a warning that a problem is creeping up, year by year.

They use graphics in creative ways to simply tell these stories. The reports are a great way to inform the public about the sources of a government’s money, and where that money is spent.

Featured Financial Audit

TANF Audit Wins National Award

Congratulations to our very own Jamie Ralls, Sandy Hilton, Ian Green and Scott Learn!

An audit released last April on Oregon’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, better known as TANF, was selected as this year’s winner for a national award on excellence in accountability.

You can read the complete audit here!

The Excellence in Accountability Awards are distributed annually by the National State Auditors Association. This year, from a pool of 34 entries across four categories, the Oregon Audits Division took home the prize in large performance audits.

After interviews, extensive data analysis and reviewing more than 80 cases in-depth, the audit found that, despite budget cuts and increased workload, Oregon’s TANF program continued to successfully help dozens of clients across the state.

However, the audit also found that the program was making little to no progress in moving its clients toward self-sufficiency. Auditors identified opportunities for improvement that would help keep Oregon’s TANF program on steady ground.

The award will be presented at the 2015 NSAA Annual Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas in June.

This marks the first time the Oregon Audits Division has won this award.

Congratulations to the team and to the other winners!

Featured Noteworthy Performance Audit

Multnomah County’s Innovative Online Audit: Visualizing Property Tax Equity

Multnomah County Auditors issued a very visual online audit of property tax equity. It uses Tableau to allow viewers to explore the data as they follow the audit. Here is a link to the audit.

We have never seen an audit displayed this way and it is very impressive. We will see if we can display some our audit results in such an engaging way!

Congratulations to Steve March, Nicole Dewees, Craig Hunt, Ben Harper, and Andrea Westersund. You’ve set a new bar for good audit reporting.