Categorized in: Center for Government Innovation FIT Local governments

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Published: October 19, 2021

Every local government in Washington is legally required to submit an annual financial report to the State Auditor’s Office. In turn, SAO is legally required to publish the data from that annual report and make it available to the public. We do this through our online Financial Intelligence Tool (FIT).

Every quarter, we publish an updated snapshot-in-time of the financial data SAO has, which ensures that FIT contains the most recent data for every local government that successfully filed a report.

While FIT allows users to search, filter, compare and visualize this data, SAO does not change the actual numbers. What a local government submits to us is ultimately what we display in FIT. That’s why it’s so important that you review your data to ensure its accuracy before and after submitting your annual report.

Who’s looking at your data?

Openness and transparency in government—especially during these challenging times—is essential for maintaining the public’s trust. FIT is a popular way for the public and others to access important information about their local government, including how money is received and spent. The following users look at your data:

  • The public. A key purpose for the legal requirement for SAO to publish financial data is based on accountability and transparency. With FIT, citizens have the ability to access their own local government’s finances and compare it to others.
  • Journalists. News organizations, from major networks to local papers, utilize FIT data to summarize and explain events that happen around our state. The integrity of the underlying data helps make these stories reliable and accurate.
  • Bond rating groups and lenders. These groups use FIT data to perform research and analysis for bond ratings, as well as to assess whether a local government is an appropriate candidate for a loan or bond issuance.
  • Other local governments. Since FIT contains every local government’s data, each government has the ability to compare and benchmark itself against peers to make decisions. For example, one city could compare its public safety spending to its peers, aiding the budgeting process. Your data’s accuracy strengthens a fellow government’s analysis.
  • Legislators and policymakers. Lawmakers have used SAO’s annual financial data for decades, using it to assist in research for proposing, modifying, or discussing changes to policy and law.
  • State agencies. In addition to the state agencies that provide loan or bond issuances, other agencies use FIT data for research to aid the success of their programs like those that provide grants and assistance to various types of local governments, businesses and citizens.
  • Auditors. We end with the obvious. SAO itself may be the most frequent user of FIT data, using it directly or indirectly during audits all year long. Additionally, SAO staff analyzes and uses this data for research to ensure quality, comparative data is available to all users.

How can you ensure your data is accurate?

SAO offers tools and resources to help you ensure your financial data is accurate.

Data Quality Checklist—published August 2021

BARS Cash Basis and GAAP Checklist for Preparing Financial Statements—updated January 2021

15-Minute FIT, a FIT tutorial—published August 2020

We also offer no-charge FIT personal training sessions where our staff walks you through the tool and how to use it. Contact us at Center@sao.wa.gov to learn more.

If you have questions about FIT or any of these resources, contact SAO’s Center for Government Innovation at Center@sao.wa.gov. For question about correcting data issues, contact SAO’s HelpDesk.

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Categorized in: Center for Government Innovation FIT Local governments

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