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Council moving closer to selecting an auditor

January 3, 2014 - 10:52pm

On the heels of a mostly positive external review of the legislative auditor’s office, the County Council will move closer next week to appointing an auditor to fill the position that’s been vacant for more than a year.

The quality control review covered the years from 2009, when the office was established as an independent agency, to June 30, 2012. Former Auditor Colleen Schrandt, who resigned in December 2012, was in charge during that period. Schrandt resigned to take an auditing position for the United Nations in New York City.

Her deputy, Lane Shibata, has been acting auditor since then and has received Schrandt’s endorsement for the permanent position.

The County Council has scheduled a special meeting for 8:15 a.m. Tuesday to interview applicants. The session is not open to the public, but the public can testify before the executive session. Council and committee meetings are in Hilo.

Council Chairman J Yoshimoto and Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida said it’s unknown whether the council will settle on an auditor next week or continue the process until another meeting. The council has held a series of executive sessions on the issue, but this will be the first time council members have interviewed candidates.

“We’re getting closer to the selection of an auditor,” Yoshimoto said Friday.

Yoshimoto and Ashida, citing personnel policies, declined to reveal details such as how many candidates are being considered and whether Shibata is one of them.

The council on Wednesday will accept a Dec. 13 letter from the Association of Local Government Auditors, describing results of a peer review by auditors from Tampa, Fla., and Kansas City, Mo.

“Based on the results of our review, it is our opinion that the Office of the Legislative Auditor, County of Hawaii’ s internal quality control system was suitably designed and operating effectively to provide reasonable assurance of compliance with Government Auditing Standards,” the letter states.

It goes on to provide eight suggestions to strengthen the office on auditing standards, many of which have already been implemented, according to auditors.

Suggestions included providing a written audit plan with detailed steps for each audit, keeping staff current on training to maintain professional competence, documenting quality control policies and procedures and communicating them to personnel and documenting the audit chief’s supervision of audits and how the methodology and evidence collected support the goal of the audit.

On the plus side, the outside auditors praised the office’s effectiveness at identifying criteria and including it in the report to help the reader understand the findings, conclusions and recommendations. They said the office is receptive to management’s comments and changes the report when warranted to ensure the report is accurate and balanced. The amount of research the office performs in preparation of planning the report is effective in helping the office assess risk, scope its work, and develop its audit objectives, auditors concluded.

“I think it is a very good result for a new shop, staffed with new auditors,” Schrandt said Friday. “It is very positive. To have gotten a positive review the first time is a major accomplishment, especially considering that essentially none of the staff had been auditors previously. It shows how professional and dedicated they are.”

Schrandt said the comments for improvements were all essentially related to administrative matters and documentation to provide an easy audit trail, but there were no findings or comments relating to deficiencies in the audit process relating to adequate support for findings, appropriateness of recommendations, inappropriate risk assessment and therefore lack of value in the audits selected.

Yoshimoto seemed to agree.

“My general impression was it as saying that they did a pretty good job,” he said.

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