The thought of a state Comptroller’s Office audit normally sends most government officials straight to the medicine cabinet looking for a gallon of Pepto-Bismol.
But if you’re a government body that’s done everything on the up and up, that’s followed the bidding rules and guidelines to the letter, that’s made accurate projections on the costs of material and labor and that played no favorites, then your mind and stomach should be at ease when the envelope with the comptroller’s return address arrives in the mail. It almost never works out that way.
The state’s chief fiscal overseer almost always can identify a procedure that a government body didn’t follow or a step it didn’t undertake or a mistake in the math somewhere along the line.
And that’s OK. Government work is complicated, and not everyone in local government is an expert on it or can be expected to follow every procedure to the letter.
That’s why we have comptroller’s audits in the first place — to correct and to educate to ensure the taxpayers are getting the most value for their investment.
Most government bodies do something wrong. But then, most government bodies apparently don’t conduct capital projects like the Niskayuna school district did with its 2016 capital project over the past three years.
Here’s what the comptroller’s office report concluded:
“We reviewed the project budget and all 136 project claims totaling approximately $4.9 million and all 56 project change orders totaling $315,366 for the audit period and found that District officials properly established, monitored and accounted for the capital project. There were no recommendations as a result of this audit.”
No recommendations. Not one.
When you go through the report, the comptroller’s office poses questions like “How Should the Board Plan and Authorize Capital Projects?” and “How Should Capital Projects Be Monitored and Financial Transactions Be Recorded?” It then answers its own questions as to how the government body should respond. Then it explains how the government body, in this case the district, responded to the same questions.
In each case in this audit, the Niskayuna district’s answers essentially mirrored the comptroller’s guidelines.
Getting an audit response like this is no accident. Everyone involved in such a complex undertaking, from the school board and administration to the contractors to the clerks and actual workers, has to do their jobs right.
The way the school district handled this project should serve as a model for other government projects and set the standard’s for the district’s upcoming capital projects.
No recommendations? Unreal.