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 Environmental Equity in Hazardous Waste Cleanup (fall 2024)

Experts estimate that one in six Americans lives within three miles of a toxic waste site so dangerous that it has been approved or proposed for cleanup under the federal government’s “Superfund” program. (The Midnite Mine in Stevens County and the Lower Duwamish Waterway in King County are two such sites.) Living near these places has been linked to long-term mental and physical health problems, yet that figure is likely even higher for people in marginalized populations. Washington has enacted laws that require state agencies to incorporate environmental justice into their strategies and activities, including how they address hazardous waste. Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all affected people when developing, implementing and enforcing environmental laws, rules and policies. This audit will look broadly at the activities and programs run by the state’s departments of Ecology and Health, the agencies with oversight responsibilities for all manner of toxic and hazardous waste. The audit will examine how these agencies work with communities near contaminated sites and seek ways to improve collaboration between the agencies and the people affected.

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).

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 a 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. 

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

No topics currently in the 2023-25 workplan. 

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).

Transportation

No topics currently in the 2023-25 workplan.