Published: December 16, 2021
As we come to the end of 2021, we at SAO want to thank you for your commitment to accountability and transparency. We know it takes people like you, people who care and put in the effort, to make good government happen.
One priority for us this year was staying connected to our local governments through clear and ongoing communication, and this redesigned, visually appealing weekly email is one example of that. We increased our use of social media—LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter— to share the message of #GoodGovernment, and we tried creative approaches to get your attention. For example, our limited video series “Fish Tank” was a special production to encourage you to consider SAO for non-audit services like process improvement and more. Watch it here.
The value of SAO’s audits are well known, but we also work hard to provide a variety of tips, resources and trainings to help you manage the day-to-day business of local government and improve your service to your communities. This year, SAO published a variety of articles and resources on internal controls, fraud prevention, cybersecurity, financial reporting, leadership, implementing software, and other valuable topics.
I asked our teams to recommend articles and other resources that they think are most important for local governments to read. This email represents the “Top hits of 2021,” and I hope you will find it valuable as we enter 2022.
On behalf of everyone at SAO, best wishes for the holiday season and throughout the coming year.
Recommended reading from 2021
Center for Government Innovation
The Center’s mission is to help local governments help the people they serve with a variety of services, tools and resources. While we’re partial to all the articles and resources we produced this year, we think three are especially valuable to local governments. First, our article on the 12 most important financial policies was a popular article and a topic that we had not published information about previously. Many governments have procedures in place, but they may not always have policies in place. Second, our internal controls article addressed the problems that arise when local governments have one trusted employee. And finally, our cash receipting controls article provides great examples on the importance of double counting.
- Top 12 most important financial policies (June 18)
- Do your internal controls have a first name? (May 26)
- Double count your way to better cash receipting controls (Sept. 15)
Team IT Audit
It’s probably not a surprise that we’re going to select articles about security. In fact, we couldn’t even narrow it down to one. These three articles address the key areas we believe local governments need to pay particular attention: installing software fixes that vendors create, implementing stronger password protections on confidential or critical resources, and preventing bank fraud. And when it comes to bank fraud, we want to warn our local governments that we have seen a resurgence of cyber actors tricking governments to change the bank account where they are sending money.
- Keep software current to reduce cybersecurity risk (Oct. 26)
- Increase your government’s account security with multi-factor authentication (Oct. 6)
- How to prevent ACH and bank fraud (Nov. 18)
Local Audit Division
At the end of almost two full years of remote auditing, we in Local Audit are grateful to our local governments and state agencies for continuing to prioritize audits for public transparency while also managing their own pandemic-affected operations. We captured the “keys” to a successful remote audit in an article published this fall for the Washington Finance Officers Association virtual conference. Titled “Flexibility and communication are key to performing timely audits,” you can check it on page three of the Audit Connection newsletter.
Team Performance Audit
Here on SAO’s Performance Audit team, we particularly liked the K&P leadership series this year. This series of blog posts describes the five core behaviors that anyone can use to become a better leader, regardless of your management style or personality. So much of what we provide is technical guidance on topics like accounting, fiscal management and security. It was refreshing to see a series dedicated to soft skills, which organizations often undervalue.
With the influx of federal money this year, more local governments are going to receive Single Audits, so we in Quality Assurance want to make sure governments are ready. SAO has provided a number of articles highlighting these audits and how to prepare for them.
- Removing the mystery: How auditors select federal programs for audit (Dec. 7)
- Do you need a federal single audit for 2020 or 2021? You might for the first time! (May 3)
- Is your contractor banned from receiving federal funds? Don’t wait to find out (Aug. 24)
State Audit and Special Investigations Division
We see digital payments—such as automated clearinghouse, electronic transfers and wire payments—as a big area of fraud risk because they create new opportunities for employees to conceal fraud. Published Nov. 17, this article titled “Beware of employee fraud in the digital age,” goes step by step to help local governments monitor payment records and bank statements on a regular basis to prevent or catch fraud.