City Agencies Fully Implement Half of Audit Recommendations
Published on March 03, 2022
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DENVER – Three city agencies fully implemented half of our recommendations but they failed to implement key recommendations — including documenting critical oversight activities for the city’s syringe access and sharps disposal programs, ensuring all employees have correct training before traveling on city business, and finding a second internet provider for the airport’s data centers.
Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, released three reports in March to follow up on:
- The “Syringe Access and Sharps Disposal Programs” audit from August 2020.
- The “Travel Expenses” audit from October 2020.
- The “Data Centers” audit from January 2019, as it pertained to Denver International Airport.
“Our recommendations are intended to support efficiency and oversight of city programs,” Auditor O’Brien said. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic slowed progress for many agencies, I expected to see better implementation rates across the board.”
Total Implementation Status for Three Follow-up Reports - Thirteen recommendations were fully implemented. Seven recommendations were partially implemented. Six recommendations were not implemented. Agencies didn't disagree with any of the recommendations.
Syringe Access and Sharps Disposal Programs
The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment lacks the funding it needs to fully implement one of our recommendations, and the department’s decision to move the syringe access and sharps disposal programs to a different section may have reset some of the progress it made.
“The city’s harm reduction programs are spread thin trying to help as many people as possible,” Auditor O’Brien said. “Program managers must ensure they use resources efficiently by using data to decide where resources are needed most and adequately communicating with community partners and other city agencies.”
In 2020, we found the city needed to improve its management of syringe access and sharps disposal programs. The department also needed a plan for tracking whether the programs were successfully helping people by reducing harm and connecting people to health services.
Our team used research and data analysis to examine how the city allocates its resources and works with the three syringe access providers it contracts with.
Since the time of our original audit, the department successfully developed an evaluation plan to collect meaningful data about the programs’ progress and operations.
However, a key recommendation to coordinate and document program oversight remains not implemented. Coordination is important for consistency, effective oversight, and protection against staff turnover.
Additionally, although the department developed an assessment plan to determine community needs for services, it hasn’t actually conducted the assessment because of the lack of funding. That means the program might not be reaching everyone in need of syringe services or may be using other resources inefficiently.
By moving the programs into the HIV Resources Section in 2021, other risks may reoccur. The risk of insufficient staffing remains, and managers have only improved communication with service providers and not all external partners and other agencies.
About the Original Report
The Controller’s Office made some progress in making the expense report process clearer for city employees who travel on city business. But the office failed to implement our recommendations to ensure employees have the necessary training and understanding of rules before they travel.
“Creating and updating resources to consistently apply the city’s expense rules is a good step,” Auditor O’Brien said. “But they won’t do much good if people haven’t taken the training.”
In our 2020 audit, we found when city employees travel on city business, some employees were not following correct expense report procedures, and some may have been reimbursed too much or too little.
We found errors in expense reporting, outdated and inefficient use of paper forms, and a lack of training for employees who travel.
Since then, the Controller’s Office removed old forms from the city website and started requiring all employees to use the city’s system of record to submit travel expenses. This helps ensure consistency in both the process and the reimbursements.
The office improved job aids for submitting expenses and calculating per diems and revised the city’s fiscal rule for travel.
However, the fiscal rule still does not include all recommended best practices. Additionally, there is no requirement for all employees to take the city’s new training course before traveling and the office still isn’t comprehensively monitoring metrics to identify trends in noncompliance.
About the Original Report
Data Centers – Denver International Airport
Although airport officials took important steps to implement five of our recommendations, the continued lack of a second internet provider leaves the airport’s critical systems at risk.
In 2019, we found the airport’s data center infrastructure could not easily adapt to changes in operations. Because the airport is a standalone entity owned by the city, the airport has its own data centers to provide real-time support for critical airport operations.
Since then, we found airport managers now track overall data center costs and energy use. And they do a better job of sharing knowledge with the city’s Technology Services agency.
However, the airport delayed its efforts to find another internet solution because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, the airport’s data centers still rely on a single internet service provider, putting them at risk if service is interrupted.
During the original audit, the airport requested nearly two years to implement a solution for their internet provider. Airport staff did evaluate proposals and selected a vendor. However, they paused the contracting process in 2020. Staff told us they plan to start over with new proposals from providers in 2023.
“Airport managers have had a long time to fix this issue and the longer they wait, the longer the airport is at risk,” Auditor O’Brien said. “I am perplexed by the decision to pause this project during the pandemic, when passenger traffic decreased and the risk of disruption during any changes was low.”
AUDITOR TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, CPA
Denver Auditor's Office
201 W. Colfax Ave. #705 Denver, CO 80202
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