We’ve been spending our day watching the Association of Local Government Auditors Annual Conference online. We wish we could be there in person – as ALGA’s membership represents one of the best group of sources for our work in state and local government.
The session that’s ended about ten minutes ago was titled, “The Role of Internal Audit in Municipal Government.” The panel, made up of four city managers from Texas, focused largely on ways the audit community can get along productively with the agencies being audited. The session was elegantly moderated by Chris Horton, County Auditor for Arlington County, Virginia and president of ALGA. Here were a few of the comments that we found particularly interesting.
“In the City of Garland," said Bryan Bradford, city manager of Garland Texas, "if you are a department manager and you request an audit, you get kind of a Get Out of Jail Free Card in the fact that you get credit for the fact that you initiated the audit and you knew there was a problem. And you had the wherewithal to ask the auditor to come in and help diagnose that.”
When TC Broadnax, city manager of Dallas first came into office about five years ago, only about forty percent of the audit recommendations were implemented. So, as he reported in the panel discussion, “We began a process under my new chief financial officer and myself and our team and actually assembled a group of five to six people who worked side by side with departments to hep them through the auditing process and work with the internal auditor, (Mark Swann), to understand better how to talk through issues. . .
“And we’ve gone from the low 40s up to close to 90 percent of our audited recommendations being implemented because, again, of the collaborative nature.”
David Cooke, City Manager Fort Worth Texas: “I think that auditors . . . struggle sometimes with translating some of our recommendations into the fiscal impact,” they have on agencies. Cooke made the point that taking note of both the financial and non-financial ramifications of audit recommendations can be very useful to all concerned.
Trey Yelverton, City Manager, Arlington Texas addressed himself to one of the fundamental lessons his city learned from the pandemic. We thought his comment was a powerful one for auditors to keep in mind when unprecedented events occur: “We counted on people doing what was in the best interest of the public, what was in the best interest of providing a service regardless of what was in our rule and regulations," he said. "And so, to me, I hope what we've learned is that you don’t need a rulebook for everything if people keep in mind why we’re all here and that’s to provide service to the public.”