Auditing the Audits: A New Dashboard from Austin
One of the fundamental tasks of city and state auditors is to promote transparency in their governments. The City of Austin’s Office of the Auditor is taking a dose of that same medicine itself through a new online dashboard that tracks recommendations from audits and how departments are carrying out tasks outlined in those recommendations.
Though many audit shops follow up regularly on the status of their recommendations, these are usually found in documents like year-end reports or individual follow-up audits. Austin has created a dashboard that allows stakeholders to see this kind of information, easily and in real time.
When viewing the dashboard, a resident, elected official, or a reporter can see what management has done in response to audit recommendations. It divides individual audits by years, showing the status of the audit in a variety of ways split between: Not Started, In Progress and Ready for Review. The status of the recommendation along with the latest updates are viewable. And there is a link to the original audit report if one wishes to see more details about what was found when the office conducted the audit.
Of the 155 recommendations in 32 audit reports since 2019, the dashboard shows that only 13 were not yet started (all but one of which were from 2023), 110 are in progress and 110 are ready for review.
For example, in October 2019, the auditor’s office recommended that the “Director of the Parks and Recreation Department should ensure that land management plans: are drafted for Parks and Recreation properties, with a priority on high-risk properties; address wildfire risk areas; and are implemented to reduce the threat of wildfire.” Four years later, this effort was determined to still be in progress.
Though most of the auditor’s recommendations are in progress, some, the dashboard shows, have moved along much more quickly. For example, a recommendation from March 2022 stated that “The Chief of Police should develop and implement a plan to ensure patrol officers have time to engage with the community in ways outside of responding to calls.” This one, the dashboard shows, is ready for review.
As Deputy City Auditor Jason Hadavi explained to us, the dashboard, “adds accountability and transparency to Austin city government. If we fall behind on reviewing management's work, the public can see it. If there is a specific audit the public is interested in, they can monitor what came of the audit. And perhaps most importantly, everyone can see the progress made on improving our government as a whole. Important information should be easily accessible by the public.”
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