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Peter’s Take: Independent Auditor Off to a Promising Start

by Peter Rousselot — April 14, 2016 at 1:15 pm 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Jessica Tucker, the new Independent Auditor, is off to a promising start. She was hired in December 2015 and reports directly to the County Board.

An Audit Committee provides oversight and advice regarding Ms. Tucker’s work. The committee held its first public meeting with Ms. Tucker on March 29.

Discussion

Ms. Tucker helpfully identified six metrics as informing what should be audited: cost savings; improved service delivery; revenue enhancement; increased efficiency; transparency and accountability; and risk mitigation. At the meeting, the committee applied these metrics to 33 suggestions for possible audits, pp. 7-11.

The 33 audit suggestions reviewed by the Audit Committee included the following:

  • Effective and efficient use of park funds
  • Site plan conditions: amendment and enforcement; whether developers are providing the community benefits promised to the County
  • Jail Medical Services (follow-up review of a previous study conducted by the Criminal Justice Institute in 2006)
  • Procurement Process

On March 29, the Audit Committee agreed initially that Ms. Tucker should begin two audits in fiscal 2016. The committee plans to decide upon its final 2017 fiscal year audit plan at its next meeting (tentatively scheduled for July 11). This will allow time for the committee to consider other items on the list of 33 together with suggestions from members of the general public submitted via use of the online “Audit Suggestion Form.”

The first two audits selected on March 29 are those relating to site plan conditions and jail healthcare.

Site Plan Conditions

As noted in a March 4 memorandum submitted by the Planning Commission, site plan conditions reflect the community’s expectations for a particular project. At times, developers subsequently request changes, and not all such requests go back to the Planning Commission or the County Board for review. Some of the changes have greatly altered a project from what was approved originally. The purpose of this audit is to analyze these changes over the years–how many have there been, what types, who actually approved them, and did the changes alter the physical project or the community benefits negotiated compared to the plan the County Board approved?

Jail Healthcare

Despite a series of jail healthcare reforms recommended in the 2006 report, there have been a series of healthcare issues at the jail. For example, a man collapsed and died there in October 2015 . And, a deaf man alleged that the six weeks he spent there amounted to torture because of inadequate procedures to deal with deafness.

Other Matters

The Audit Committee considered asking the Independent Auditor to review the County’s procurement practices given cost overruns and delays with the new homeless services center and several parks projects. Because there has been major procurement staff turnover in the last twelve months, the committee decided that since reforms are already underway, such an audit should be deferred.

The Audit Committee also conducted a lively debate regarding the Independent Auditor’s requested addendum to the County Board’s audit charge regarding free and open access to books and records, facilities and personnel, p. 4. The committee ultimately approved this request in order to send an important signal for the future.

Conclusion

The work of the new Independent Auditor should improve Arlington’s fiscal health.

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