Monday, October 17, 2011

Audit Universe vs Audit Horizon

"Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains majesty, above the fruited plain...." We here in Colorado know what a great horizon is. The Denver Auditor's Office also has a great horizon. We call it our "audit horizon" of planned high-risk audits which stretch over three years. That's a horizon that serves the taxpayers of our city. I am really proud of our Internal Audit Division for the outstanding, meaningful and valuable audits they have performed over the past years.

In the past our Internal Audit Division developed what was called an "audit universe." The process was cumbersome and time consuming offering analysis that revealed there are thousands of possible audits that would require tens of thousands of audit hours. The areas of possible audit were even assigned a percentage ranking in the list of all possible audits to be done. What this complicated process really communicated was that it is not possible to audit each and every city agency, activity and contract. But by telling the administration and council of audits in a universal list, we inadvertently gave the impression that areas to be audited would be audited. It might take years, but they were on the list. That approach bothered my conscience. So, with the hard work of our Internal Audit teams, we have changed.

So now the "audit universe" has taken second fiddle to what we call the 'audit horizon," as mentioned above. With common sense and realistic expectations the audit horizon approach identifies, prioritizes and manages audits determined to be critical to the city operations. Audits included in the horizon are based on available audit hours each year to ensure that realistic expectations are established and stated goals are met. The auditors build in ample hours to a plan for specially requested audits by departments, the mayor and council. The audit horizon approach gives me "lots of flexibility to be able to respond to emerging issues in a timely manner by providing high quality and responsive customer service to elected officials and operational management." That last comment is right out of our audit plan. You can read it on our web site:

We give great care in selecting the audits to be performed. We want to make sure that there is widespread audit coverage in terms of both types of audits performed, as defined in generally accepted government audit standards promulgated by the Comptroller General of the United States. A copy of the "yellow book," as it has been christened by auditors can be read on the web site of the United States Government Accountability Office, in a publication entitled: "Government Auditing Standards," and was revised last in July of 2007. By city charter our office is required to back up all our audits with the rules in the "yellow books. If we don't perform to those high standards, we will get dinged by our peer reviewers who review our work in the Denver Office every few years. I am please to report we received rave review from our last peer review by outside auditors from other jurisdictions around the country.

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