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

Ensuring Climate-Resilient Infrastructure to Meet Washington’s Growing Energy Needs (tentative)

Earth’s changing climate will eventually affect nearly every aspect of life in Washington, from the natural and built environment to the people who live and work here. Washington is leading the way in adapting its approach to energy, having already enacted several laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing carbon-producing energy plants with renewable energy resources. However, new energy infrastructure projects should be sited and built with climate effects in mind. Already, many agencies and organizations play a critical role in Washington’s ongoing conversion to entirely renewable energy resources. This audit will look at how the state can ensure new energy infrastructure is sited and built considering the forecasted effects of climate change.

Community Engagement During Contaminated Site Cleanups (winter 2024)

Experts have established a clear link between living near places contaminated with hazardous materials and enduring long-term mental and physical health problems. Cleaning up such sites plays an important role in safeguarding community health by reducing people’s exposure to hazardous materials. Nonetheless, cleanup activities may sometimes pose new risks as workers disturb contaminated soil or water. The people most likely to be affected often belong to marginalized populations whose health and livelihoods may already be compromised. In recent years, Washington’s civic leaders have taken steps to ensure those people directly affected by such sites are not only heard, but their views are also integrated before and during cleanups. This audit will examine the collection and incorporation of public feedback for cleanup programs managed by the state’s Department of Ecology; it specifically excludes nuclear waste cleanup programs. It will also consider the role of the Department of Health as it relates to Ecology’s cleanup activities. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Economic Development

Washington Housing Finance Commission: Oversight of tenant-ownership options (fall 2024)

Tenant ownership plans have the potential to increase homeownership among low-income renters. The Washington State Housing Finance Commission administers the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program to help finance affordable housing developments, which includes an eventual tenant ownership option. Tenant ownership options can vary, for example by the period of tenancy required to be eligible for ownership, how the project owner calculates the purchase price, and whether the owner will credit rent payments toward the purchase price. This audit will examine whether the Commission has followed applicable federal and state laws related to financing and overseeing housing developers who offer such ownership options. It will also consider ways to improve the agency’s oversight of these projects to help achieve positive tenant outcomes. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Fiscal, Operations and General Government

Evaluating the One Washington Plan for the State’s New Financial System (spring 2024)

Our state is pursuing a multiphase project to replace its outdated financial systems since 2013. The project is managed by One Washington, a program within the Office of Financial Management. The program’s ultimate goal is to integrate many administrative systems (including finance, procurement, budget, human resources and payroll) under a single enterprise resource planning system. Phase 1 – due to be completed on July 1, 2025 –replaces the state’s general ledger accounting system, the Agency Financial Reporting System (AFRS). This audit will evaluate whether One Washington appears well prepared to reach the Phase 1 goal and, if necessary, make recommendations to resolve any potential weaknesses or limitations in One Washington’s current plan before the new system goes live. Read the one-page summary. (PDF)

Evaluating State Oversight of the Cannabis Industry Follow-up (summer 2024)

In 2018, we conducted a performance audit designed to help Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) identify risks in managing the newly created recreational cannabis industry. We recommended LCB develop and automate risk management tools that could use existing tracking data to identify potentially illegal transactions. Such tools would allow regulators to prioritize enforcement and auditing of licensees based on risk, but LCB has not yet implemented our recommendations. This audit will consider the obstacles the agency encountered in doing so, and how it currently ensures efficient, targeted, industry regulation to minimize criminal activity. In particular, the audit will evaluate how LCB prioritizes its enforcement and audit activities to minimize illegal production and diversion of cannabis products to the black market. Read the one-page summary. (PDF)

Health and Human Services

Examining Concurrent Multistate Enrollments in Medicaid (summer 2024)

Members of the Medicaid Task Force in the Washington State Auditor’s Office will conduct a multistate performance audit of the federal Medicaid program. Partner organizations include the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and audit teams from Oregon, Ohio and Kentucky. Working together, auditors will identify Medicaid beneficiaries who are inappropriately enrolled in managed care in more than one state at the same time. This audit could help Washington’s Medicaid program strengthen its processes to avoid paying managed care organizations for beneficiaries living in other states. Read the one-page summary. (PDF)

I-1163: Following up on selected issues from previous audits (spring 2024)

Our Office has conducted numerous performance audits of the state’s long-term care worker certification and training program, as mandated by Initiative 1163 (I-1163). This limited-scope audit will follow up on a number of past audit recommendations, from the reports listed below, to see whether and how they have been implemented. 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 (2024-2025)

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).

Opportunities to Improve IT Security at State Agencies and Local Governments (2024-2025)

People depend on Washington's state and local governments for many different services – such as public safety, tax collection, social services, and transportation systems. Governments depend on technology to provide these services. The security of these systems and related data are vital to public confidence, the continuity of government operations, and the safety and well-being of the state and its residents. Our cybersecurity audits examine IT systems used in government operations. They look for weaknesses in that technology and propose solutions to help strengthen those systems. Cybersecurity audits are a type of performance audit and are provided at no cost to state and local governments, thanks to 2005's voter-approved Initiative 900.  Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Improving Ransomware Resiliency at Local Governments (2024-2025)

Ransomware is a type of software designed to deny access to a computer system or the data it stores until the victim pays the demanded ransom. As attackers
continue to hone their tactics, local governments expected to keep systems secure and available struggle to keep pace.To help local governments prevent and respond to this increasing risk, the State Auditor’s Office off ers performance audits that specifically examine a government’s resiliency to ransomware. We examine five control areas that apply to distinct facets of ransomware prevention, detection and response. These audits can benefit governments large enough to employ cybersecurity staff as well as smaller governments that use contracted IT services. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

K-12 Education

Improving Recruitment and Retention of Special Educators (summer 2024)

Washington is facing a significant shortage of qualified people to work in special education, including teachers, paraeducators and support specialists. Each role can be critical to the academic success of students with disabilities. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, turnover in the field is high, with vacancies four times higher than in general education. The combination of too few appropriately endorsed educators and high turnover in the field deprives students with the most complex education needs of quality instruction they need to succeed academically. This audit will identify factors contributing to the shortage and turnover of special educators, and consider strategies that educational agencies can use to improve their recruitment and retention. Read the one-page summary (PDF).

Public Safety

Fines Used to Deter Human Trafficking and Support Survivors (spring 2025)

Human trafficking is a multibillion-dollar illegal trade whose perpetrators disproportionately target vulnerable people and those in marginalized communities. Trafficking is defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel a person into any form of work – whether sex or other labor – against their will. Although commonly associated with the commercial sex trade, trafficking also occurs in a wide range of other industries including agriculture and hospitality. While Washington has long been considered a nationwide leader in the fight to eliminate human trafficking, with multiple state and local agencies working together to eradicate it, the problem nonetheless persists. The full scope of all forms of human trafficking is unknown, but in King County alone, authorities estimate 500 to 700 children are trafficked into the commercial sex industry annually. This audit will assess Washington’s efforts to combat human trafficking and consider recommendations that can improve them. For example, the audit may review coordination efforts and resource needs at multiple agencies, current criminal penalties, and identification and awareness activities such as training.

Sexual Assault Kits: Following up on Washington State Patrol's testing backlog (fall 2024)

Forensic evidence collected after a sexual assault can be crucial to help resolve crimes and ensure justice is served. When sexual assault kits go untested, DNA results cannot be connected to other cases and offenders may commit more crimes. Our 2022 performance found that the State Patrol, which is responsible for testing all sexual assault kits statewide, had taken important steps to eliminate the kit-testing backlogs. However, only 74 percent of all kits had been tested as required. This audit will follow up on the previous audit’s findings and determine whether the State Patrol has eliminated the backlog of untested sexual assault kits. Read the one-page summary. (PDF)

Transportation

No topics currently in the 2023-25 workplan.