The Mechanics of Government

Auditors are the specialty mechanics of government. While we don’t make the repairs ourselves, we diagnose the problems and recommend solutions. I know the metaphor oversimplifies our work, and our working environment, but let’s take it for a spin. What are the expectations for a well-tuned government machine? Well, they’re extensive because the machinery is… Continue reading The Mechanics of Government

What I learned without training

After thirty years of auditing in three entirely different work environments—city, county, and state—I learned far more than I was taught. Continuing professional education is valuable, but  there’s just so much to be learned that can’t fit in all those classes, conferences, and webinars. I also learned that some topics should be taught but aren’t,… Continue reading What I learned without training

Accountability Story: The biggest impact report in my career

To start, you should know that this 2003 report was not an audit. This was not a safe place to send auditors, so we hired consultants. If you think that is crass, ask yourself why you’ve never conducted an audit of officer-involved shootings. You should also know that my office contained the Independent Police Review… Continue reading Accountability Story: The biggest impact report in my career

Measuring the Vigor in Your Community

Presented at the 2005 ALGA Conference Auditing isn’t the only accountability tool. The mission, framework and methods of performance auditing have parallels in other accountability mechanisms and problem-solving strategies. As the elected auditor of the city of Portland, I have greater freedom to explore accountability strategies to accomplish the mission of my office. In addition… Continue reading Measuring the Vigor in Your Community

Auditing between and among

We interview and observe and analyze our audit areas to identify issues that ultimately turn into findings and audit reports. We make recommendations to address inadequacies, or opportunities to be taken. Here’s a new way to think about our work. We find what isn’t there. We spot places where more controls are needed, procedures are… Continue reading Auditing between and among

Long Story: The Flourish and Fade of a Measurement System

Let’s start with a piece by Jorge Luis Borges called “On Exactitude in Science.” In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer… Continue reading Long Story: The Flourish and Fade of a Measurement System


People like scapegoats, and sometimes audit findings can encourage them to thump someone. Even though the blame may be difficult to assign, there are some elected officials, reporters, and bloggers who want to attack someone—the agency head, the program manager, or “government bureaucrats.” Sometimes the biggest barrier to solving a problem is the blame game.… Continue reading Context

Halcyon Times

Presented to the Biennial Intergovernmental Audit Forum It is 1998 and a grand time to be a performance auditor! Managers are emphasizing measurement and improvement. Elected officials are talking about increased accountability and obtaining assurances of results. They are investing in data systems and analysts, and incorporating measures into their reporting and budgeting systems. These… Continue reading Halcyon Times

Writing audits in a post-journalism reality

I believe that our audits will become even more important in the future, though we face our own dangers. Honest brokers of the facts are becoming an endangered species. Many professions are being questioned as to their objectivity and independence. Businesses often pay faculty researchers, which casts more doubt on their conclusions. Physicians are rewarded… Continue reading Writing audits in a post-journalism reality

Verified by MonsterInsights