The City of Seattle lacks consistent standards on purchasing and payments, making it hard to tell if what the city is buying is for a legitimate public purpose, according to an audit report released today by State Auditor Brian Sonntag.
The audit finding says that 48 of 50 randomly selected city payments totaling $238,617 were inadequate to show their public purpose. The audit says the purchasing and payment documentation doesn’t show who authorized a purchase and that in some cases payments were made by people not on the official list of approved signatories. Policies and procedures aren’t standardized across departments and the city’s accounting system isn’t documenting the complete process from initial purchase to final payment, the audit found.
The report says the city’s lack of internal controls could expose it to misuse, loss or misappropriation of public funds. The audit covered July 2010 through June 2011.
In its response, the City says that in November 2011 the City Council and mayor signed a resolution supporting creation of a financial management system with common procedures across departments. The Department of Finance and Administrative services this year began to develop standardized policies and procedures and an upgrade of the city’s financial record-keeping system, according to the city response. The city concludes that the results of these improvements will address the audit finding.
The goal is to have a standardized financial system in place by 2015 that will support reporting, central financial oversight and accountability, and still meet the needs of varied city operations, said Katherine Schubert-Knapp, spokeswoman for the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.