External auditor: County gets ‘the best you can get’ audit for 2018 financial practices

January 25, 2019

The Multnomah County Board accepted a “clean’’ external audit on the County’s financial practices on Thursday, Jan. 24.

A team from the accounting firm Moss Adams created the annual scorecard for the County’s financial practices for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. The audit evaluated whether the County’s financial statements are a fair representation of its transactions and balances, whether the county complied with state and federal laws, whether auditors discovered any waste, fraud or abuse, and, finally, the County’s actual financial condition.

“We are very pleased to report to you that we have issued, in technical terms, what is called an unmodified opinion on the financial statements. In layman’s terms, we call that a clean opinion,’’ said Jim Lanzarotta, a certified public accountant and partner with Moss Adams. “That’s the best you can get.’’

Lanzarotta said he was pleased to tell the Board “that your crew does a phenomenal job. They are able to accurately capture the financial transactions of all your departments, and get it into their documents correctly. And that is quite a testament to your leadership and the finance management leadership and the crew sitting here that does that detailed work.’’

Lanzarotta said the County is unusual among governments in following two particular best practices: Notably, the County asks its own internal auditor, Jennifer McGuirk, to engage with the Moss Adams team. It also assigns an audit committee to oversee the process .

The auditors did find two areas where internal controls needed to be strengthened. First, they found an error in accounting of capital assets. Over the years, as the state of Oregon has handed the County bridges and roads to manage and maintain, there were errors in the way some assets were booked in the financial statements.

“It does not impact your budgets; it did not impact any of the cash you spend or how you handle that. It is strictly accounting for the donated assets,’’ Lanzarotta said.

The audit also found some of the payroll charges related to a teenage pregnancy grant did not match hours actually worked in two instances. “The dollar amount was minor but the control was not working.’’

Mark Campbell, chief financial officer, said the County has already addressed both issues. And, he said, the County’s new Workday system will help going forward.

Campbell also thanked the County’s finance team, noting that employees record thousands of financial transactions through the year, assist in the external audit and also work to ensure financial accountability. He specifically called out Samina Gillum, the County’s finance manager, and Cora Bell, who serves as Workday’s grants “guru” in addition to her role as County’s fiscal compliance manager.

“We have received the award from the Government Finance Office Association for Excellence in Financial Reporting,” Campbell said. “Last year was our 34th consecutive year, and we hope to make it 35.”

Board members thanked the finance team for their mostly hidden work.

“While it’s not glamorous, it is essential that we are fiscally responsible, and it enables us to borrow at a lower than market rate — and so helps us carry out the mission of the County,’’ Commissioner Lori Stegmann said.

Commissioners Susheela Jayapal, Jessica Vega Pederson and Sharon Meieran echoed her thanks.

Chair Deborah Kafoury thanked the Advisory Committee members and the auditor, Moss Adams. “I feel confident you are helping to keep us on the right track,” she said.

She also thanked the staff for keeping up their standards, even as they undertook the huge task of implementing Workday.

“I’m pretty sure we are going to get that 35th,’’ she said.