About Local Government Audits

Types of local government audits and reports

The State Auditor's Office (SAO) is responsible for auditing Washington’s more than 2,000 local governments, ranging from the largest counties to the smallest special-purpose districts. This includes everything from school districts to cemetery districts to mosquito districts to transportation authorities. These local government audits represent the bulk of the SAO's work.

Accountability audits

An accountability audit evaluates whether a local government has adhered to applicable state laws, regulations and its own policies and procedures. We audit records to ensure public funds are accounted for and controls are in place to protect public resources from misappropriation and misuse. We are required to examine the financial affairs of all local governments at least once every three years.

The Center for Government Innovation helps local governments help the people they serve. The Center provides online tools and offers in-person training courses, workshops and technical assistance.

Financial audits

We perform financial statement audits to provide an independent opinion on a local government's financial statements and the results of its operations and cash flows. In other words, these audits determine whether the financial statements present a reliable, accurate picture of a government's finances.

A local government is required to receive an audit of its financial statements if it:

  • receives over $2 million in annual revenues, or
  • spends more than $750,000 in federal financial assistance, or
  • is specified in financing arrangements, such as bonds, loans or grant agreements.

All local governments are required by RCW 43.09.230 to submit an annual financial report to our office within 150 days of the end of their fiscal year.

Learn about the Local Government Advisory Committee, which consults with SAO to create statewide accounting guidance that affects local governments.

Federal single audits

Recipients of federal funding must arrange for an audit when they spend $750,000 or more in federal awards in a year. A federal single audit’s objective is to determine and report on whether a local government that received federal funding has complied with applicable requirements. Each federal single audit contains two components:

  1. An audit of the local government’s internal controls and compliance with federal requirements.
  2. An audit of financial statements.

Single audits typically must be completed and submitted to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse within nine months following the fiscal year end being reported on.

Special engagements

Energy Independence Act compliance examinations (Energy examinations)

We conduct examinations of Washington's large utilities to ensure they are complying with the Energy Independence Act (EIA). The act requires the state's qualifying utilities to obtain up to 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources each year and to pursue cost-effective energy conservation to meet their biennial targets.

Visit the Washington Department of Commerce's EIA website.

School apportionment-related audits

Our School Programs team is responsible for centralized planning and performing apportionment audits of programs such as alternative learning experience and special education. The School Programs team also performs accountability audits of public charter and tribal compact schools.