Expectations of a Public Agency

by Bob Forward

It’s great to have an opportunity to recognize leadership within the Shreveport City Council, and a formal thanks to Oliver Jenkins. Among the actions taken in carrying out the duties of the City Council, Jenkins can take credit for pushing the directive that the city’s internal auditor review departments and agencies that rely on city services as well as tax monies. This is an annual process which will rotate to cover approximately one-third of all departments and agencies. This process gives council members and the public a better understanding of the agencies and may raise public confidence in the oversight provided by the council. Understanding these audits is the responsibility of all citizens as well as the council.

Approval of public agencies and public officials appears to be near all-time lows as noted in recent polls. A record-high 76 percent of Americans say most members of Congress don’t deserve to be reelected, according to a Gallup poll released last Friday. That number has actually risen since the panicked days after the debt ceiling showdown. Louisiana, and Shreveport in particular, should be taking a very hard look at the operation of our public agencies with a particular interest in their responsibility toward effectiveness and stewardship of the public’s resources.

2012 is a critical year for agencies, voters, taxpayers and special-interest groups as TAX ELECTIONS are on the immediate horizon. This is NOT condemning or extolling a position for or against any tax or agency. This is a call for Responsiveness.

Most recent tax elections, and this is true for elections to public office, have had vocal groups on each side with clear agendas. Often these agendas have centered around two issues:

  • Agency Supporters based on employees and those directly benefiting from the agency services or jobs within the agency, including recipients of funding.
  • The “Anti-Tax” group, whose position is based on knowledge of poor service from the agency, distrust of the leadership of the agency, understanding of the wasteful use of public money or a philosophical bias to the agency’s mission.

The directives comply with most standard accounting principles.

Ten Audit Directives for a Public Agency

  1. Overall operating efficiency and effectiveness of the organization
  2. Efficient use of resources
  3. Adequate policies and procedures in place to protect public resources
  4. Effective accounting and auditing procedures for governance of capital projects
  5. Proper recordkeeping and reporting of financials
  6. Proper board oversight and reporting structure
  7. Professional contracts with audit chain of operation and audit capabilities
  8. Professional needs assessments and studies for long-term operation
  9. Systematic feedback with public, customers and board of control
  10. Compliance with existing laws regarding openness and records

Audited departments and agencies that receive passing scores have a better chance of public support required to continue with their mission. Bond issues coming before the voters in 2012 are on the immediate horizon. Any chance to enhance public confidence in governmental agencies or public officials must be utilized. Missed opportunities are just that. The voter has little patience during tough economic times and we appreciate any opportunity that officials take to bolster public confidence. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air!