“As a city audit department, we need performance measurement tools that go beyond the bottom line. ACL gives us the ability to assess a huge amount of data and boil it down to meaningful information. The more we use ACL, the more valuable ways we find to apply it in all our audit projects.”
Jim Williamson, Assistant City Auditor, City of Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City auditors provide ongoing, independent assessments of municipal revenue streams and conduct a wide variety of data reviews for departments across this state capital. The audit team relies on ACL Audit Analytic technology in nearly every project it undertakes, to transform massive amounts of data into information that can be used to measure and monitor municipal performance and operational efficiency. In one project, the audit team produced an award-winning report that uncovered £27.7 million in lost municipal revenues and led to changes in the way all cities within the state collect sales tax payouts. Use of ACL technology enables the Oklahoma City Audit department to strengthen the municipal government’s credibility and accountability, maximise revenues, and assess citywide operations to find opportunities for performance improvements.
With a population of more than 500,000, Oklahoma City is a sprawling state capital encompassing more than 600 square miles. Municipal authorities work with an operating budget of £289.5 million and a general fund budget of almost £184.8 million. City Auditor Susan McNitt leads the eight-person Oklahoma City Audit department team.
Oklahoma City’s audit team must sift through vast quantities of data drawn from citywide agencies to evaluate and assess operational performance. Most municipal departments do not have the processes or technology to effectively track their own performance, much less to compare and benchmark it against other city, state, or national performance indicators. In many instances, such performance indicators simply do not exist.
The Audit department needs a reliable way to create, monitor, and report on performance measures, to track operational timelines and outcomes, and to identify opportunities for improvements ranging from workflow optimisation to staffing allocations.
Since 1993, Oklahoma City auditors have applied ACL technology in creative ways to support their audit mandate.
One dramatic example of how ACL technology enabled significant, measurable results came through a sales tax revenue audit project, initially requested by the City Finance Director. Through the tax audit, the team determined that a state statute had been routinely misapplied for more than eight years. Applying ACL to analyse the historical records, the audit team uncovered approximately £27.7 million in revenues lost to municipalities over that period, spurring recovery efforts that returned £1.85 million to Oklahoma City coffers alone.
The National Association of Local Government Auditors awarded this sales tax audit project the Knighton Award, given annually in recognition of the best municipal performance audit conducted in the United States and Canada. The Oklahoma City Finance department now uses ACL software to monitor state sales tax revenues on a bi-weekly basis, and the city continues to realise the financial benefits of this regular and rigorous oversight. Since sales taxes account for more than 50 percent of the city’s general fund budget, confirming that funds are properly allocated and accounted for and assuring this critical municipal revenue stream remains a priority for the audit team.
ACL technology also enables the audit department to create performance measures, and assess operational timelines and processes against these targets. For example, the team conducted an analysis to determine how long it takes the Public Works department to issue building permits. Using ACL analytics, the auditors drew on raw data taken from the permit tracking system, determined how long each stage of the permit process normally takes, and identified the areas that created a bottleneck. As a result, the Public Works department gained valuable insight into every step of its building permit process and was able to introduce operational efficiencies that reduced permit wait times from three weeks to two.
In another instance, the audit team applied ACL technology to access and analyse data housed in court systems that track citations and measure judicial timelines. This analysis provided the critical information needed to improve performance through reallocation of manpower, indicating only four judges were required instead of six. This enabled the city council to make informed decisions concerning judicial workloads, caseload targets, and performance outcomes.
The Oklahoma City Audit and Finance departments use powerful ACL analytic technology throughout their municipal operations to: