Deputy mayor, Pratt discuss audit policy

But comptroller still fears officials will resist reports

August 12, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley's top executive met with Comptroller Joan M. Pratt yesterday to hash out how the two elected officials' staffs can work together to improve audits of city agencies.

The two sides agreed that the administration should be pushing city agencies to fully cooperate with Pratt's auditors to root out inefficiencies. But Pratt and city auditor Yovonda Brooks expressed continuing concern with an administration policy to counter audits.

"The Administration's proposal will hinder the audit process by impairing the integrity of the report response and creating delays in the completion of the audit," Pratt and Brooks wrote in a letter to First Deputy Mayor Michael R. Enright after their meeting with him.

The meeting was prompted by Enright's Aug. 4 e-mail directive to all department heads asking to be fully informed of Brooks' audits.

Enright's e-mail stated that agencies must notify the mayor's office, the Finance Department and CitiStat officials when auditors come calling. Departments are required to get the administration's approval for their answers to auditors' questions and must also share draft audit reports with the administration.

"This new policy ensures that the administration is aware of all active audits, provides an opportunity to aggressively counter negative findings prior to their release to the public and affords us time to develop an effective communications strategy," Enright wrote in the conclusion of his e-mail.

After the meeting yesterday, Enright said the memo's purpose was to improve responses from city agencies so that auditors get the "informative, timely and accurate" data they need to do their work and to make sure that agencies are implementing audit recommendations.

"There's certainly nothing inappropriate about the CEO of a $2 billion corporation being made aware that one of their branch offices are being audited," Enright said. "I'm trying to give these audits more focus and more visibility and to let the agencies know that I take them very seriously."

Pratt and City Council President Sheila Dixon said Monday that Enright's wording could be interpreted to mean that the mayor's office was more interested in putting a positive spin on negative audits than in fixing problems.

"Based upon our meeting, it is our expectation that the Mayor's Office, in its effort to have an open and transparent government, will not aggressively counter audit findings," read the letter by Pratt and Brooks.

Enright wrote his e-mail directive on the same day that the Board of Estimates accepted an audit that found $3.5 million in potential revenues was lost over the past three years because rental rates for conduit use had not been increased in July 2001.

He said he told Brooks that the administration will not hinder government auditing standards, which require responses from agency heads - not their bosses.

Brooks and Pratt agreed that the mayor's office should be informed of the "initiation, due dates, follow-up and completion of audits." Their letter also recommended that the mayor's office require agencies to cooperate with auditors.

It also requested that Citi- Stat, the mayor's statistical tracking system of agencies, not be involved until an audit is completed.

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