Performance Audits in Progress

What are we working on now?

Several performance audits are under way at any given time, and more are being considered. The following projects are in the performance audit workplan for the current biennium. Once we have completed initial planning work for a performance audit, we add a one-page description of the project setting set out key questions and our plans for conducting the audit. We also add a tentative publication date for the final report. Please note that the proposals and publication dates are subject to change.

Browse our topic areas by clicking on the headings to expand individual project summaries.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

Assessing the Effectiveness of Washington’s Water-Use Efficiency Regulations (winter 2024)

Proactively managing and conserving precious water resources are fast becoming essential responsibilities of the state. In Washington, the Department of Health (DOH) regulates around 17,700 water systems for quality and safety, ensuring they provide fresh, drinkable water to the state’s residents. Most drinkable water is distributed to Washingtonians by a subset of the water systems, called municipal water suppliers. They are differentiated in state law based on their customer size or if they serve a governmental purpose. This audit will examine how DOH monitors municipal water suppliers and ensures they follow the state’s Municipal Water Law, and to what extent suppliers are doing so. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Evaluating Aquatic Land Lease Rates (winter 2024)

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands. "Aquatic lands" refers to all tidelands, shorelands, harbor areas and the beds of navigable waters. DNR leases some of this land to businesses or the public for purposes such as marinas, docks, aquaculture, and more. Neither DNR’s process nor legislation related to determining aquatic land lease rates have been updated in many years. There are concerns that unfair lease rates for certain industries or for the state may exist. This audit will examine how lease rates are determined for aquatic lands, and whether improvements should be made. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Economic Development

Growth Management Act: City and county compliance with the Act’s 120-day permitting requirement (winter 2024)

The state’s Growth Management Act requires fast-growing cities and counties to issue construction and land development permits no later than 120 days after receiving the developer’s application, providing the application is complete and meets all state and municipal requirements. Legislators have expressed concerns that some cities and counties are not complying with this requirement. Some may have also insisted that developers sign waivers that exempt the issuers from the 120-day requirement. There could be economic consequences if jurisdictions are not complying with the Act. For example, it could mean less predictability for construction and land development applicants and possibly increases in housing costs. This audit would examine the extent to which a selection of cities and counties are complying with this 120-day rule. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Fiscal, Operations and General Government

No topics currently in the 2021-23 workplan.

Health and Human Services

Medicaid Managed Care: Ensuring rates paid to MCOs reflect accurate data and program integrity efforts (summer 2023)

Washington’s Health Care Authority (HCA) contracts with managed care organizations (MCOs) to provide Medicaid services to eligible Washingtonians. Almost one-fourth of the state’s population – 1.7 million people – receive medical and behavioral healthcare through one of five contracted MCOs. During fiscal year 2021, these five MCOs received more than $9.1 billion; nearly half of this money went to one MCO. HCA cannot cap enrollment in the program, but it can control costs through program integrity efforts. HCA must also ensure that “encounter data” from MCOs is accurate, because monthly premiums are based on this data and inaccurate data could result in inflated premium rates. This audit will determine whether HCA and the MCOs have effective processes in place to ensure that encounter data is complete and accurate, and if the monthly premium rates HCA pays to MCOs reflect MCO program integrity efforts, such as identified overpayments. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Lead Testing for Children Enrolled in Medicaid (late fall 2023)

Elevated blood lead levels can contribute to lower IQ and behavioral and learning problems. Blood tests are the only way to confirm if a child has elevated blood lead levels. Federal law requires that children enrolled in Medicaid receive two blood lead tests before they turn two, or once before six years of age if no previous test took place. Washington’s Health Care Authority, as the state’s Medicaid agency, is responsible for ensuring providers perform required lead testing. In addition, the Department of Health tracks test results and acts to connect families of children with elevated levels to needed services. This audit will determine to what extent children enrolled in Medicaid are receiving the required lead testing. If eligible children are not receiving required tests, we will ask why and identify steps the state can take to ensure children at the highest risk receive tests. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Higher Education

Dual Credit Programs in Washington (summer 2024)

Participation in dual credit programs allows students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously. Benefits of these programs include giving high school students early exposure to college coursework and reducing the cost of their college education. However, each two- and four-year college and university establishes its own policies and procedures determining how credits earned in a high school dual-credit program are transferred and accepted. Depending on the college that students eventually apply to, they may or may not gain full credit of the dual courses they took in high school. This audit will assess eight institutions of higher education to learn the extent to which they accept dual credits earned in two of Washington’s large dual credit programs: Running Start and College in the High School. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Information Technology

Opportunities to Improve IT Security at Critical Infrastructure Organizations (summer 2023)

The federal government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has advised state and local governments to be on the alert for cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure across America. The warnings urgently recommended that state and local governments improve cybersecurity defenses around infrastructure such as airports, dams, power stations and hospitals. In response to these threats, the State Auditor’s Office has begun a new series of cybersecurity performance audits for governments with critical infrastructure in Washington. These audits are not intended to provide a comprehensive assessment of a government’s security posture, but are instead narrowly scoped, looking for opportunities to improve those governments’ security against external threats. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

K-12 Education

K-12 Education: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic (fall 2023)

This broadly scoped audit will explore lessons learned from providing a free and appropriate public education during a global pandemic. The break from the physical classroom may bring to light hidden reasons why some students struggle while others succeed. The scoping phase for this project will begin by identifying the key lessons learned during the pandemic regarding public education. Auditors will then select one or more topics to pursue, potentially through a series of audits. The audit will likely make recommendations in two areas. First, to improve education in Washington going forward, and second to better position the state should future events call for long-term school closures. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Public Safety

Civil Asset Forfeiture in Washington (winter 2023)

This audit would examine the use of civil asset forfeiture by the state’s law enforcement agencies. Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement agencies to seize – and then keep or sell – any property alleged to have been involved in a crime. Under state law, law enforcement may seize property even if the property owners have not been arrested or convicted. The intention of civil asset forfeiture is to deter criminal activity and disrupt criminal organizations. The audit could examine whether forfeiture functions as originally intended. Possible areas of interest include analyzing the types of offenses that lead to asset forfeiture, and the effect on property owners and crime rates. Another area of interest considers how the state uses seized funds. The audit could also review asset forfeiture data reported by law enforcement agencies to the state treasurer. Read the one-page summary (PDF).


No topics currently in the 2021-23 workplan