Regular Audits Required

Contributed by Ted Mahoney
Saturday, 02 July 2005
The performance of our Department Heads, Council, and Boards during the budget process made apparant the need for regular performance audits of our city departments.Audit, from the Latine audire, which means “to hear,” is an adjustment and settling of accounts, and is performed by accountants. It is the reconciling of numbers. A performance audit shows the use of those numbers in support of an activity, or commonly does a given program justify the resources expended. The first is a science, while the second is far less precise. It involves a cost-efficiency ratio which often does not fit certain activities like the old lifeguard problem. You have to pay for one, because one day you might need one. Nevertheless a performance audit is something ongoing. That is to say all of the city departments should be doing it on a regularly-scheduled basis.

We pay top dollar to our department heads to do so. The boards and particularly the council, rely on them because although they have the authority, few have the expertise or the time to do it themselves. Something our city charter overlooked. But what I find confusing is that evidently the council believes there are unnecessary expenditures by the city departments, yet voted to give those departments increases anyway. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to hold the increase at the level they first voted for, conduct the performance audits, and then using them to determine what increases if any are needed? And what of those department heads? If the council doesn’t think they are doing a good job, then why did they renew their contracts?

As for performance, well, Management 101. Up to about five years ago, the policy of the city to have written specific job descriptions was to have no policy. It was hit and miss. How does one evaluate one’s job performance when there is no description as to what it is he or she is supposed to be doing? Pretty difficult to be objective. Wonder if the council has ever requested to see an SOP on job descriptions or evaluations? Certainly hope that has changed, but a performance audit might “uncover” it if not.

The more I see of the performance of the council and boards, you guessed it, that’s where the audit should begin. Maybe we should take the Clipper ship off our city symbol and replace it with a cart pulling a horse.

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