UPDATE, 6:30 p.m.: The Prince William Board of Supervisors did vote to close its internal auditor’s office. Chairman Stewart said the office was his ”brainchild” but wasn’t working efficiently, and using a large outside firm, McGladrey LLC, with ”an army of auditors” with specialized training would be better. Supervisor Frank Principi was the only no vote, saying it returned the county to the situation of the 2000s where embezzlement went unchecked.
Stewart noted the board had voted unanimously to do this on Sept. 25. Principi asked who would be directing the audits. Stewart referred him to the McGladrey website.
Jeremy Borden will have a full story on this later. (It is here.)
ORIGINAL POST: Virtually every local government of any size has an internal auditor. It’s the person, or office of people, who investigates the way government agencies spend their money, or do their jobs, to monitor possible waste or fraud. To save taxpayer money. But in Prince William County, the Board of Supervisors is poised Tuesday to eliminate this office and outsource audits to a private company for the same cost.
The Washington Post’s Jeremy Borden laid out the background here, and local bloggers bashed the board’s decision. The board meeting began at 2 p.m. Tuesday with the auditor’s office listed early in the agenda. Board Chairman Corey Stewart then promptly announced that the item would be pushed back to “after ‘Supervisors’ Time’,” or approximately four hours later, for anyone who took the trouble to attend or watch the meeting (streaming here).
The Prince William County government has a budget of $914 million this year. The audit services office has a budget of about $786,000 for six auditors and an administrator. Several auditors have left, and those positions have not been filled. But those who remain sent the board an eight-page memo with numerous warnings. Among those were that an outside auditor does not have the knowledge of government workings to properly assess what’s right and what’s wrong.
But the auditors also claimed that the audit reports would be guided by county management, in particular County Executive Melissa Peacor, who they claimed has “total control over audit issues”-- even though Peacor and her staff oversee those being audited. County spokesman Jason Grant said Tuesday night that Peacor had nothing to do with guiding the investigations or hiring the outside auditing firm, and that the memo was written by “disgruntled employees who will lose their current positions [and] are willing to make false accusations.”
Peacor told Borden that she would stay out of the process, though the current auditors claim she ordered county staff not to cooperate with them and locked them out of meetings with the committee. Stewart told Borden the current auditors were incompetent. A recent audit of a firefighter pension fund found a $1 million cost overrun. Stewart said the report was incomplete. The auditors say it was merely embarrassing to the county. Stewart then released the audit, describing what he felt were its flaws, and said discussion about reworking the audit office had been occurring for a year.
And for that, you eliminate the internal investigators altogether?
We are still waiting for the board to make its decision, and It’s an important one decision for everyone in Prince William who cares how their money is spent.
NOTE: This post was updated to reflect that the issue had been previously discussed publicly, and that Peacor was not involved in the audit process or the hiring of McGladrey.