DENVER – Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, and his Auditor’s Office have produced one of the top audits of the year among the top government auditing organizations in the country. The Association of Local Government Auditors has awarded a Distinguished Knighton Award to the Auditor’s Office for our audit of Denver’s Preschool Program.
“We work hard every day to serve the people of Denver the best we can,” Auditor O’Brien said. “The honor of this award should signal to the public that we are doing everything we can to serve them by producing the highest-quality, most trustworthy reports.”
The annual Knighton Awards recognize high-quality performance audit reports from cities, counties and school districts across the country. This is the third Knighton Award for Auditor O’Brien’s administration. The Denver Auditor’s Office previously won another Distinguished Award a year ago for our first Affordable Housing audit and the office received the Knighton Exemplary Award for the 2015 Rocky Mountain Human Services audit.
“I am proud of the professionalism and skill of my team in the Denver Auditor’s Office,” Auditor O’Brien said. “Our office has a tradition of success and excellence, and we will continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards on every audit.”
Our Denver Preschool Program audit found the city could be serving more kids and preschool providers if it used and invested its tax dollars better. Denver Preschool Program Inc. is a nonprofit that operates independently using dedicated tax dollars. However, the city is still responsible for financial oversight of the program.
“I wanted to take a close look at the Denver Preschool Program because less than a year ago Denver voters approved even more dedicated taxes that the city will need to responsibly monitor,” Auditor O’Brien said. “The city is working to set up dedicated tax funds for school scholarships and healthy food and mental health programs. I hope city leaders will learn lessons from the management of the Denver Preschool Program’s finances and use these new tax dollars more effectively.”
Auditors found the preschool program had accumulated more than $20 million in unspent tax revenue. This excessive accumulation could have limited opportunities to expand access to quality preschools to more Denver children.
Auditors also found the program could have at least used those excessive reserves to bring in more interest — money that could have also been used to support the program. The reserves were invested in a commercial money market account, which yielded about $50,000 from 2015 through 2018. Auditors’ analysis showed the organization could have brought in as much as $1.1 million in return on investment in that same time frame if the money had been invested in the City and County of Denver’s portfolio instead.
Judges from the Association of Local Government Auditors commended the report for its focus on serving Denver residents, for its thorough and clear conclusions, and for effective use of writing style and visuals.
“The judges found the subject matter to be responsive to the needs and concerns of decision-makers and the public, and had the potential to be highly impactful,” the association said in their assessment of the audit. “The conclusions were logical, clearly stated, and well supported, which increased their persuasiveness.”
Audit Director Katja Freeman oversaw the team that worked on this award-winning audit. The team included former Audit Supervisor LaKeshia Allen Horner, Senior Auditor Darrell Finke, Senior Auditor Maria Durant, Associate Auditor June Samadi, and former Audit Intern Samantha Lasher. Audit Analytics Supervisor Sam Gallaher and his team also contributed to the audit.
From the Association of Local Government Auditors:
“Each year, local government audit organizations from around the U.S. and Canada submit their best performance audit reports for judging. The purpose of the competition is to improve government services by encouraging and increasing levels of excellence among local government auditors. Judges from peer organizations determined that this audit was among the best of 2019.
The Association of Local Government Auditors is a national audit association founded in 1985 committed to supporting and improving local government auditing through advocacy, collaboration, education, and training, while upholding and promoting the highest standards of professional ethics.”