Audits are an integral part of the District of Columbia’s system of checks and balances, providing objective, independent reviews of agency stewardship and fostering accountability to the residents of the District. ODCA audits are guided by Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) standards established by the Comptroller General of the United States. These standards provide a framework for conducting quality audits with competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence.
Performance audits represent the vast majority of the work conducted by ODCA. Performance audits are comprehensive, detailed reviews that assess an agency or program’s effectiveness, economy, efficiency, internal control, and/or compliance.
The decision to initiate an audit is determined by a combination of factors, including legislative requirements, the program or agency’s risk for fraud, waste and abuse, community and policymaker priorities, and specific requests or recommendations from residents and members of the D.C. Council.
It is our goal to keep the audited agency apprised of the status of the audit during each phase through meetings, informal discussions and briefings. The audit team will also advise the agency of critical issues that may require immediate resolution. An audit can be a time consuming process for agencies and their staff. We make a concerted effort to mitigate any impact on agency operations and minimize the additional burden on agency staff during our audit process.
The planning phase marks the beginning of ODCA’s research and information gathering and includes deciding where and how we assign audit staff and resources.
ODCA’s first formal communication with the agency being considered for audit is an engagement letter to the director of the agency. The letter communicates an overview of the preliminary objectives, scope, methodology and timing of the audit. The letter also typically proposes a date and time for the entrance conference, which provides an opportunity for agency management to meet the audit team and for ODCA to inform management about the audit process.
During the survey phase, the audit team conducts a risk assessment of key organizational operations. The audit team reviews relevant laws, regulations, policies, procedures, best practices and professional literature about the agency and relevant programs. We also conduct interviews with agency staff to gain an understanding of agency operations. Our goal is to develop a complete understanding of the agency or program to finalize sound audit objectives and identify the key areas that will be audited.
During the field work phase, we obtain an in-depth understanding of the issues and answer questions that were raised during the survey phase. During this phase, we may conduct sampling and testing of data, interviews, and detailed reviews of work processes.
After completing our field work analyses, the audit team holds a meeting with agency management to discuss our preliminary findings and conclusions. The audit team works to clearly convey the facts and circumstances surrounding each finding and attempts to correct any misunderstandings and/or inaccuracies prior to moving to the reporting phase of the audit process.
The audit team prepares a draft audit report when field work is completed to communicate the audit findings and recommendations. We conduct a vigorous review to validate all the information contained in the draft report, ensuring that all conclusions are supported by sufficient and appropriate evidence.
ODCA sends the draft report containing our audit findings and recommendations to appropriate parties along with instructions for providing comment on the draft report and the comment due date. During the comment period, an agency can request an exit conference which is held at the D.C. Auditor’s office. At least 24 hours before the exit conference, the agency is required to submit a detailed agenda of the concerns or issues to be addressed.
Agencies or affected parties are asked to formally respond, in writing, indicating their official position (agree or disagree) on each recommendation in the draft report, within 15 business days. The response can also include concerns with findings or facts in the report. All written responses are reviewed by ODCA and changes are made to the report, if warranted. The submitted responses are always included in the final report.
Once the agency’s comments have been reviewed and incorporated into the draft report, ODCA conducts another internal review and the final report is issued and posted to ODCA’s website. The final report is also presented to the Council of the District of Columbia, the Mayor, and select members of Congress.