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THE LAST WORD

City dollars should be watched by our Internal Audit team

Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 12:01 am

Transparency and oversight. Those are two processes we taxpayers want to see when government officials are spending our money. Apparently some City Council officials may not believe that it is a worthwhile expenditure in our current city budget.

The city of Fort Wayne’s Internal Audit (IA) Department’s responsibility is to see “that laws are followed, resources are used efficiently and economically, and, among other things, that risks to the city are minimized.” Who could argue with that?

In the past this department, marked by professionalism and accuracy, has audited our fire, police and sanitary officers’ pensions and found all of them to be run “by knowledgeable, well-trained and organized” individuals whose procedures “are clear, concise and effective.” More importantly for us citizens, they found the Civil City Public Deposits process to be “sound” and that those in charge of our money were “well-informed of the requirement(s) and adherence to policy is evident.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I am reassured when someone takes an independent look at how taxpayers’ dollars are handled and spent. They add that they appreciate the “time and cooperation” given by the departments being audited, whether it was flood control or the pension funds. They sound agreeable enough, don’t they?

But perhaps some on council take umbrage because their pet department did not receive an A rating. But if standard operating procedures (SOPs) are not in place, or being followed, then it is Internal Audit’s job to ferret them out. It should be looked upon as an opportunity to improve, such as when IA noted in 2011 that while Water Maintenance and Service performs preventive maintenance on city fire hydrants and valves every 18 months, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) recommends annual maintenance, and semiannual in freezing climates (I think we qualify).

Remember the hullabaloo about how much the city pays annually to the City Utilities for this service? I say, let’s get our money’s worth and have the job done right, for the firefighters as well as the public’s safety.

And the Police Department was found, in 2011, to still be using old 2006 gun permit forms and that their records department had a two-year backlog on scanning old reports.

It was also the Internal Audit Department that determined, in 2011, that state law requires that guns (not ordered destroyed by a court order) and other property seized in controlled substance cases were to be turned over to the Sheriff’s Department.

A lot of policies and procedures are implemented behind closed doors in our Citizens Square building, and a lot of taxpayer money passes through those doors as well. We should all be assured that our dollars are being carefully watched by our Internal Audit team.

Too bad they can’t have oversight on the spending as well.

Liz Brown is a former member of City Council.