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Peter’s Take: New Independent Auditor Inherits Full Menu

by Peter Rousselot November 17, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

Peter RousselotPeter’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.

At its November 9 recessed meeting, the County Board unanimously approved the contract of Dr. Chris Horton as Arlington’s new independent auditor. Dr. Horton reports directly to the County Board, and his work is supervised by an Audit Committee.

John Vihstadt led the effort to create the independent auditor position, and continues to play a leadership role as a member of the Audit Committee.

Discussion

Prior to her July departure, Jessica Tucker (the former independent auditor) identified six metrics to determine which County programs or services should be audited: cost savings; improved service delivery; revenue enhancement; increased efficiency; transparency and accountability; and risk mitigation.

At its March meeting, the Audit Committee applied these metrics to 33 pending suggestions for possible audits.

Any member of the public may recommend an area for audit consideration by filling out and submitting the form available here.

Current Status of Independent Audits

The Audit Committee has agreed on three priority areas for Dr. Horton to pick up at the point Ms. Tucker left off. Those three areas, and their most recent public status, are:

  • Emergency Medical Services (Ambulance) Fees: Contract Oversight and Revenue Management — Draft report provided to management on July 6; awaits Management Response to findings.
  • Site Plan Conditions — Tracking, Monitoring and Enforcement: Recommendation to defer until implementation of the new permitting system; request that the Advisory Commissions develop a more complete list of “unfulfilled” community benefits.

As noted in a March Planning Commission memorandum, developers have been required to provide community benefits as conditions of special exception, site plan approvals. 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 in the plan the County Board originally approved?

  • Jail Medical Services — January 2006 Recommendations, Follow‐up: The Sheriff provided Ms. Tucker with an email documenting how many of the findings in a 2006 report had been remediated.  The Sheriff’s Office is continuing to work on providing a more complete update on the 2006 findings.

Despite a series of jail healthcare reforms recommended in the 2006 report, there have been multiple 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.

The Fraud and Abuse Hotline

John Vihstadt also led the effort to create the fraud and abuse hotline made available to County employees last Spring and to the general public effective November 15.

Any member of the public may submit a complaint:

  • By telephone at 1-866-565-9206, or
  • On the website, available 24/7/365.

Current Status of Internal County Audits

The County Manager’s office also continues to conduct and publish internal audits. You can access published audit reports here.

Conclusion

All these new and ongoing measures provide safeguards to strengthen the financial controls and accountability of our County government.

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