Most Unauditable Governments Now Accountable

Aug 17, 2020

State Auditor Pat McCarthy is pleased to announce that dozens of governments deemed unauditable last year have taken steps to comply with state accountability laws, leading to today's publication of completed audits of two governments that had gone without outside review for years.

A public accountability initiative by the Auditor's Office, along with action by state lawmakers, and the support of local government leaders and members of the public, has reduced by about two-thirds the number of local governments that have not reported required annual financial reports or cooperated with an audit.

“We've focused on ensuring every government in Washington receives an independent audit, and it's made a difference,” McCarthy said. “The public expects every government to be transparent, and I want to acknowledge the Legislature and local government leaders for supporting this effort to increase transparency.”

Today, the Office of the Washington State Auditor released the first audit of Pierce County Drainage District No. 23 in 15 years. Also published was the first audit of King County Drainage District No. 5 since it was the subject of a $400,000 misappropriation and declared unauditable last year.

State law requires each local government to submit annual financial reports to SAO and to be audited at least once every three years. However, a small number of the state's 2,300 local governments do not cooperate in these basic accountability measures.

In May 2019, 40 local governments were determined to be unauditable, but that number has fallen to 15 by this month. Full details, including the list of governments, are available in this interactive infographic.

“Our goal is to ensure that every single government that receives public tax dollars is accountable to the public, and we will continue to shine a light on the issue,” said McCarthy. “I want to encourage the few governments still deemed unauditable to work with us and respond to our requests.”

Those governments still categorized as unauditable may be the subject of an “Report on Unauditable Government,” a type of report that is referred to the state Attorney General's Office for possible legal action. Under the legislative reforms passed this year, the report may also trigger intervention by the county in which an unauditable government operates.