A word of thanks to the Richardson City Council audit committee (Bob Townsend, Laura Maczka, Scott Dunn) for asking the city's auditor, KPMG, if their Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) could be published in spreadsheet format. KPMG insists that it not be, in an effort to make it harder for unscrupulous people to change the data. Of course, that also makes it harder to audit the auditors, so to speak. KPMG have allowed the report to be published in a searchable PDF format. I can attest that this year's CAFR is searchable (thanks).
After the jump, so what?
I think the audit committee is giving up too easily on this point. KPMG is providing a service to the city. Richardson could insist on a spreadsheet deliverable the next time KPMG is hired to do the audit. Even if KPMG (and all auditing firms Richardson could use instead) refuse to budge on this point, there is still an alternative. The report published by KPMG might come with conditions attached, but the data in the report is supplied by the City of Richardson. Richardson could publish its own spreadsheets of the data it supplied to KPMG for KPMG to conduct an audit in the first place.
Kudos to Amir Omar for inquiring about the difference between internal and external audits and to the audit committee for suggesting that they may institute quarterly reviews of the internal audits conducted by city staff. The city council's job doesn't end with hiring great people for the city staff. As Ronald Reagan famously said, "Trust, but verify." Insist that the data prepared for those quarterly reviews of internal audits be openly published in spreadsheet format to make the verification task easier for all.
Oh, and one more thing. What's with an audit committee in the first place? Shouldn't staying on top of the city's financial position be a primary responsibility of all council members? Why would the full council delegate that to a committee of three? Why wouldn't the full council attend all meetings with the auditors? Coincidentally, three is the largest number of members a committee of council members can be without constituting a quorum of the council as a whole, which would trigger the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA). That should not matter. Audit committee meetings should be announced and open to the public in any case. If the audit committee does institute quarterly internal audit reviews, they should conduct these meetings in an open and transparent manner.