Listening to Audit Experts and Best Practices are Essential to Denver’s Government

Denver City Auditor Tim O’Brien, CPA

Accountability and transparency matter to our community — and that’s what I work hard to encourage in the City and County of Denver every day. I remain hopeful that I will be able to work meaningfully with Denver’s City Council to find a solution on audit subpoena power that is within the bounds of the audit standards I am required by law to follow.

Recently, a majority of the City Council chose to repeal the audit subpoena power — a power every other elected official in the city has — after they forced my office to ask the courts to rule on whether the council’s last-minute amendment to the ordinance was legal.

As we look now to move forward, I hope that council will be thoughtful about their legislation and remember that we are always here as a resource on the requirements and processes of auditing. I am required by Denver’s Charter to follow Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards published by the Comptroller General of the United States — and previous legislation from council was at odds with those requirements.

After working as an auditor for more than 40 years, serving as the State Auditor, and Denver’s elected Auditor, I am proud to offer my expertise and knowledge in service of anyone who cares about Denver.

Since taking office, my teams have won five national auditing awards and we work with peer audit agencies across the country to teach and learn about auditing best practices. Awards matter because they show our community that our peers across the country have looked at our methods and results.

We follow auditing best practices, and we are a leader among local government auditing organizations in the country.

The first steps to rebuilding the ordinance and restoring the subpoena power must involve clearing up significant misinformation and taking an informed look at the work we do and how we do it.

I must be clear: We use secure transfer portals to move data, and we store our workpapers in a specialized secure auditing software called Teammate. We do this every day and have a track record of successfully protecting confidential information.

Our innovative and leading-edge audit analytics and data analysis techniques use data science to efficiently sort through thousands of pieces of data. Our work is informed by The Institute for Internal Auditors, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, and the Association of Fraud Examiners.

In the interest of working together productively, I am eager to see the promised new drafts of the subpoena power legislation.

This effort has always been about doing the best possible work on behalf of the public our office serves. With subpoena power restored for wage investigations, our wage analysts would be able to use faster ways, when necessary, to make workers whole after they were not paid according to the law.

As for the Audit Services Division, we maintain our right under the Denver Charter to access all records without restriction in the course of our work. Without the subpoena power, the process will simply be slower and more expensive if audited organizations refuse to produce records.

The people of Denver deserve the best work from those of us who serve in government and that means working together to avoid legislation in conflict with audit standards.

I also look forward to resuming our previously planned audit of the City Council’s operations, which was originally requested by members of the council themselves. I hope we can resolve our procedural disagreements soon and obtain the City Council’s full cooperation.

I respect both the council’s role in government and the legislative process. I hope the council will offer the same respect to our professional and thorough audit process.

Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, is serving his second term as the elected Auditor and has more than 40 years of auditing and accounting experience, through which he strives to bring greater clarity, transparency, and accountability to Denver’s city government.

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