Performance Audit : Government Operations

State Government : Performance Audit : Earlier work

This page contains synopses, links to published reports, and other materials addressing government operations, including information technology (IT), finance, and regulatory reform.

Regulatory Reform: Assessing Implementation of the Regulatory Fairness Act (pdf, 1.2 mb)
December 2016
Summary: This performance audit, the fourth in a series exploring aspects of regulatory reform, offered suggestions to help agencies meet the requirements of the Regulatory Fairness Act, a law designed to help mitigate any disproportionate costs of regulation on small businesses. We also identified materials (listed below) that can help agencies meet all the Act's requirements. View the videocast here (YouTube). Read the two-page summary (pdf, 198 kb). View earlier work around regulatory reform.

Continuing Opportunities to Improve State Information Technology Security - 2016 (pdf, 310 kb)
November 2016
Summary: This performance audit examined IT security controls at Washington state agencies, working with subject matter experts to conduct assessments of organizational IT infrastructure and applications. We consulted with the state's Chief Information Security Officer at WaTech's Office of Cyber Security, and compared state practices to leading practices. We found the three agencies included in the audit have taken significant measures to protect their IT systems from risk, and we made suggestions to them directly and to the Office of Cyber Security. However, to protect the state's IT systems from attack, our report does not include the agencies' names or detailed descriptions of our results.    

Ensuring Economical and Efficient Printing for Washington (pdf, 660 kb)
October 2016
Summary:  This performance audit (a follow-up to one conducted in 2011) considered the progress made by state agencies, including the Department of Enterprise Services' Printing & Imaging (P&I) program, in reducing statewide printing costs. We found that P&I needs more vendor-pricing and performance information to fully demonstrate its print prices are competitive with the private sector. DES is promoting print management strategies to state agencies, although few have implemented any strategies. We estimate savings of up to $3.9 million to $11.7 million but we were unable to estimate how much of this amount the state has already saved through partial implementation. Read the two-page summary (pdf, 130 kb). View the videocast here (YouTube).

The Effect of Public Records Requests on Washington's State and Local Governments (pdf, 1.1 mb)
August 2016
Summary:  At the request of the Legislature, this performance audit examined the effect of public records requests on state and local governments. We found that a changing public records environment and a Public Records Act (PRA) that has not kept pace with present-day issues pose challenges that, if not addressed, may undermine the original intent of public records laws and hinder other essential government services. The state and local governments that responded to our statewide survey reported spending more than $60 million to fulfill more than 285,000 public records requests in the most recent year alone. Requesters pay only a small portion of the costs (less than 1 percent) involved in fulfilling public records requests. Our research shows that a combination of statewide policy changes and better information management and disclosure practices is needed to keep pace with changing times. We identified policies the Legislature can consider to address public records issues. We also identified practical solutions that can help state and local governments continue to improve their records management and disclosure processes. Read the two-page summary (pdf, 89 kb). Watch a video and explore the full results of our survey here.

Washington State Patrol Radio Narrowbanding Project (pdf, 1.3 mb)
August 2016
Summary: The Washington State Patrol opted to meet a federal mandate by using digital narrowband radio equipment and by entering into an agreement with the Department of Justice to use its Integrated Wireless Network (IWN), built by Motorola. We found the Patrol could have benefited from the knowledge provided by an engineering study before designing its narrowband system, while soliciting competitive proposals could have helped it better assess the best project approach. While it has likely maintained coverage where it was already good, and partnered successfully with other agencies to address coverage issues, it has likely lost coverage in areas that had poor but usable sound quality before converting to narrowband. View the videocast here (YouTube). Read the two-page summary (pdf, 101 kb)

Costs and Sustainability at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (pdf, 1.9 mb)
June 2016
Summary: The Health Benefit Exchange helps customers buy health insurance plans and determines whether they are eligible for subsidies that help pay for them. The Legislature required the State Auditor's Office to examine the Exchange's operating costs. We found the Exchange has not been fully reimbursed by the state and federal Medicaid program for nearly $90 million in services provided on behalf of the Health Care Authority; we recommend the Exchange and HCA work together to ensure proper payment allocations. We also found the Exchange's operating expenses appear reasonable, and that joining the federal health exchange program now would increase the Exchange's overall costs. Finally, we made recommendations that can help the Exchange manage its financial self-sustainability in the future. View the videocast here (YouTube). Read the two-page summary (pdf, 193 kb)

Administrative Appeals (pdf, 2.3 mb)
May 2016
Summary: Administrative appeals offer people and businesses a way to dispute agency decisions without resorting to the courts. This performance audit found that these hearings are functioning as intended, but striking the proper balance between implementing agency policy and providing a fair process is challenging. Our recommendations address two issues in particular: clarifying the role of informal guidance from agency management to administrative judges and clarifying the nature of communications permitted between agency and judges. We also make recommendations directly to some of the agencies whose processes we reviewed. Read the two-page summary (pdf, 90 kb).

Regulatory Reform: Enhancing Regulatory Agency Coordination (pdf, 1.5 mb)
July 2015
Summary: By coordinating their regulatory requirements and permitting activities, regulatory agencies can help promote economic vitality and improve program efficiency. This performance audit found that state agencies coordinate some of their work, but much of that coordination is informal and depends on the actions of individuals rather than policy. The audit identifies the need for a lead agency and a long-term strategy to identify and prioritize opportunities for targeted, multi-agency coordination of regulatory processes. See the videocast here (YouTube). Read the two-page summary (pdf, 81 kb) Learn more about earlier audits in this series.

Opportunities to Improve State IT Security (pdf, 1.4mb)
December 2014
Summary: While Washington has taken many measures to protect itself from cyber threats, this performance audit found opportunities to strengthen the state's information technology (IT) security posture to reduce the risk of hacking or other attacks. We found that the state's IT security standards align with leading practices, but we also found that agencies are not fully complying with all standards. Our compliance and application security testing found numerous issues at those agencies we tested, including significant discrepancies between agency-reported compliance with state standards and our own results. See multimedia materials here. Read the two-page summary (pdf, 100 kb) Read Appendix C additional materials (pdf, 292 kb)

Debt-Offset Programs: A tool to help Washington collect delinquent debt (pdf, 1.8mb)
December 2014
Summary: By implementing a state debt-offset program and participating in the U.S. Treasury's State Reciprocal Program, this performance audit found that Washington could more quickly and efficiently collect delinquent business debt. These programs intercept payments the state makes to businesses that owe money to the state and use it to offset debts the business owes, such as delinquent state taxes. We researched leading practices, and spoke to nine states that use debt-offset programs, and found that effective programs encourage wide participation across agencies, and use processes that are standardized and automated. The report includes recommendations that could help Washington establish a comprehensive debt-offset program.  See multimedia materials here. Read the two-page summary (182 kb)

Controls over EBT Cards and the Eligibility of Card Users (pdf, 875kb)
November 2014

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) administers large federal food and financial assistance programs, which provide nearly $2 billion in annual benefits to low–income Washington residents. These program benefits can be abused or paid to persons who do not qualify to receive them. Recent legislation required DSHS to make efforts to address these risks an agency priority. This audit concluded that DSHS’ efforts are effective in those areas examined. We did identify a few areas where DSHS can further improve that effectiveness: using data to more quickly identify program participants who have moved out of state, earned more income than allowed, or died while receiving benefits. View the videocast here (YouTube). Read the two-page summary (pdf, 82 kb).

Performance Measures in Economic Development Programs (pdf, 1mb)
October 2014
Summary: The Associate Development Organization program, managed by the Department of Commerce, provides economic development services tailored to meet local needs. We found that assessing the direct impact of this program is difficult because so many factors influence business owners' decisions to expand or relocate. The report offers suggestions and leading practices that can help the state develop more effective performance measurement systems for economic development programs. Listen to the podcast here. Read the two-page summary (pdf, 85 kb)​

Safe Data Disposal (pdf, 637kb)
April 2014
Summary: We checked a sample of state computers sent for surplus or sale and found some contained confidential data that should have been removed. After our audit found weaknesses in the data removal system, state government organizations responded swiftly to improve their processes and better protect data on surplus computers. See multimedia materials here. Read the two-page summary (pdf, 80kb)

Regulatory Reform: Improving Permit Timeliness (pdf, 1.9mb)
December 2013

Summary: State agencies could shorten the time it takes to submit, review and make decisions on business permit applications through simple improvements. Agencies and businesses don’t always know how long processes take because not all agencies measure permitting times or provide that information online. Regulatory agencies can improve permit processing times by giving businesses more information and help as they prepare their applications, by measuring how long permit decisions take, and then using that data and other measures to identify and correct process bottlenecks. Read the two-page summary (pdf, 111kb). Explore other materials from our regulatory reform audits here.

Creating a 21st-century Financial Management System in Washington (pdf, 4mb) May 2013
Summary: Washington’s current financial management system, which administers multi-billion-dollar budgets, is not meeting the state’s needs. System inefficiencies accounted for more than a quarter of the time state agency staff spent on the financial management tasks we evaluated in this audit, but the current system is not in imminent danger of collapse. A new system would be costly, but could pay for itself over time. Read the two-page summary (pdf, 319kb)

Regulatory Reform: Communicating Regulatory Information and Streamlining Business Rules (pdf, 6.7mb) September 2012
Summary: First in a series of performance audit reports designed to identify ways Washington's state agencies can improve their interactions with businesses. We found the state is a long way from completing the vision of a "one-stop" solution to help business people find everything they need to comply with the state and local laws and regulations governing them. The audit also examined several agencies' efforts to streamline their business rules. Explore other materials from our regulatory reform audits here.

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