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Lens: State Auditor “Bled, Broke, And Disrespected”

by Matt Rosenberg March 17th, 2016

Recently, from Lens:

Bled, Broke And Disrespected: Tough Times For The Washington State Auditor.

How bad have things gotten in Washington state for the embattled State Auditor’s Office (SAO)? Really bad.

As in, the auditor is under indictment, the office’s performance audit budget is being raided yet again, and the legislature was going to great lengths to consider a bill to partially weaken the auditor’s powers.

Read the whole thing.

State: UW Fire Techs Will Pay Thousands For Ethics Goofs

by Matt Rosenberg November 26th, 2013

Concluding a state oversight review that began with an auditor’s report last year, the Washington Executive Ethics Board has reached civil settlements with two University of Washington fire alarm control technician supervisors for allegations they spent hours surfing the Internet while on duty, including while collecting overtime pay. Each agreeing in signed “stipulation” settlement documents to $2,500 in fines and additional restitution were Don Makena and Stan Ross. In restitution Makena will also pay $5,150 and Ross another $1,323. Public records show actual total salary and overtime paid to Makena was $106,682 in 2011 and $94,919 in 2012; while Ross earned total pay of $89,930 in 2011 and $80,836 in 2012. Both belong to the labor union the Washington Federation of State Employees. They remain in their jobs but could be discharged if they make any other ethics missteps, said a university spokesman.

Fraud Report: Timesheet Padding Cost Harborview $16K

by Matt Rosenberg August 29th, 2013

A new fraud investigation report from Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley finds that an “electroneurodiagnostic technician” at Harborview Medical Center – which is owned by King County and operated by the University of Washington – between January 2010 and the end of October, 2012 received pay for 628 hours she didn’t work, valued at $16,286. It is the third time since April 2012 that state investigations have concluded a Harborview worker committed fraud. Another auditor’s report in 2010 found fault with cash handling practices at Harborview.

Ethics board hits ex-DNR buyer with $7.5K fine

by Matt Rosenberg July 22nd, 2013

A former vehicle parts buyer for the Washington Department of Natural Resources used his position to exchange special favors with suppliers and has agreed to pay a fine to a state oversight board of $7,500 for violating state ethics laws, according to an agreement he signed that was approved July 12. Longtime DNR employee Randy Sweet worked as a parts specialist for the state agency since 1991, in later years at the Tumwater compound just south of the Olympia Airport where he shared responsibilities for buying, billing and taking delivery of materials and parts used to keep running DNR’s boats, heavy equipment, cars and trucks. But during 2007 and 2008 he skirted purchasing guidelines meant to save taxpayer monies, to instead fatten the wallets of or to favor certain suppliers and was rewarded in return with cut rate deals on personal merchandise or other favors. This according to the findings of fact in the Washington Executive Ethics Board agreement, or “stipulation” document he signed to settle the case and which the board approved just 10 days ago.

A 2010 state audit which led to the ethics board probe noted two others at the facility were fired along with Sweet, one resigned, and eight more were reprimanded. The agency then said it put new safeguards in place. There were no criminal prosecutions. The ethics board is still investigating the role of two men above Sweet who may also face civil sanctions. The problems were first identified in a 2001 state audit.

KIng County audit hastens fix pledges on accident pay-outs

by Matt Rosenberg July 9th, 2013

King County could do far better controlling public risk and related liability pay-outs in negligence cases, especially those related to Metro Transit and other transportation functions, according to a recent and wholly overlooked report from the King County Auditor’s Office. It accents “critical weaknesses” in current risk control strategies. These include baked-in lowballing of the real risk bill to county taxpayers due to ignoring workers compensation costs in taxpayer-funded tort liability settlements; and lack of an overall risk control system including thorough accident data tracking and related performance standards. Another shortcoming is insufficient driver safety training, the audit finds.

Outside of transportation, the audit says the county “will continue to face compliance and claims risks” because of its sub-par system for responding to public records requests, and that it must speed efforts to implement risk controls around incidences of excessive force by the King County Sheriff’s office, and cyber-secuirty vulnerabilities. Top officials say they’re implementing some changes already, and more are to come.

Sound Transit Would Reject Key Reforms in State Audit

by Matt Rosenberg June 27th, 2013

In a draft status update to be presented this morning at its audit committee meeting, the three-county Seattle region transit agency Sound Transit pointedly rejects a score of key ethics reforms recommended for its Citizens Oversight Panel in a bristling state performance audit released last fall. If the responses are affirmed by the full ST board as is likely, there will be no COP meetings at night so citizens can more easily attend; no outside screening of COP appointees for potential conflicts of interest; no mandated geographic diversity; no restrictions on public advocacy of transit-related measures by COP members; no mandated separate annual fiscal report by the COP; and no use of outside experts by the watchdog panel. There will be some improvements to the COP’s Web page.

State audit: Seattle Schools facility rentals program in disarray

by Matt Rosenberg June 25th, 2013

A new report from Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley suggests the Seattle Public Schools have left uncollected potentially several million dollars of revenues for facility rentals and related costs in recent years, much of it since last September. In addition to 9,000 hours of un-billed rentals, the district is also failing to monitor and collect on past due bills it has issued for facilities rentals; has disguised outside rentals as internal events, causing more revenue loss; has failed to follow insurance documentation requirements for outside events; and hasn’t trained many staff as needed on a new rentals record-keeping system.

According to the new accountability audit, the district failed to collect rental fees for about 9,000 hours worth of use of its facilities by outside at 2,432 special events on premises from last September through this April. District rental rates vary from $8.00 per hour to $88.90 per hour. Additional hourly fees are often charged for utilities, cleaning and security, ranging from $47 to $73.85. Combined rates thus could range from $56 per hour at the low end to as high as $162.75 per hour at the high end. The report says the amount of lost revenue can’t be quantified but that auditors believe it is “substantial.”

If all of the roughly 9,000 un-billed hours hours were charged at the minimum combined rental and services rate the revenue would have been $504,000; if all were billed at the highest combined rental and services rate – something that is unlikely – the recovered revenues would have been $1.46 million.

Public Data Ferret’s Seattle+Management archive

In addition the audit reports that the school district estimates it has left another $400,000 to $820,000 uncollected from the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation Department in shared 2006-2011 revenues related to adult usage of facilities and lighting fees. The school district failed to invoice Parks and lacks supporting documentation so cannot recover the monies it believes it is due.

The audit also says that of $223,213 in rental fees charged in from last September through this April, $102,913 remains uncollected and those payments are an average of 115 days overdue. The report adds, “The rentals office is not monitoring these past due accounts, nor is it sending delinquent accounts to collections.” Any additional past due amounts before last September can’t be calculated due to lack of records, the audit says.

In three cases, district staff disguised outside events as internal and lost $45,000 in the process, the audit also finds. Further, rentals overseers aren’t documenting insurance and concussion policy compliance, which could increase liability upon a death during an outside event, the audit states. A third of schools tested in the audit were’t using the district’s new online system for scheduling outside events.

The audit recommends the Seattle School District train staff to follow facilities usage guidelines; train staff who are assigned to do scheduling and event approvals in the new online system; follow-up on past due bills; and reconcile shared revenues from Parks with its own calculations of its share.

In a response in the audit the District says it concurs with the findings and will take the recommended corrective steps.


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