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ROLE 1: Audit Performance or PM Systems

Practice 1a. Audit performance: Measure or assess performance during an audit or other study based on authoritative auditing standards.

Austin, Texas, City Auditor [Profile]
The Office of the City Auditor (OCA) has been conducting performance audits of city departments and programs since 1985, and in recent years has been using performance information in risk assessment to help plan future performance audits, as described below.  OCA observed that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, some of the most common audit findings across many departments concerned weak performance measurement practices, with measures often not relevant or non-existent, data unreliable, and the use of data by management limited at best.  So in 1992, the City Auditor encouraged the City Council (see Practice 5a. External advocacy), to whom the Auditor reports, to demonstrate its interest in performance measurement to City management.  That year, OCA drafted a resolution that the Council passed encouraging city agencies to measure and report performance.  Since then, OCA has continued to review performance measures as part of performance audits, and, from 1994 to 2002, conducted several entity-wide reviews of City of Austin performance management systems (Practice 1b. Audit performance management systems).  Those and other OCA efforts over the years, as well as efforts by city management, the Austin Corporate Internal Auditor, and city departments have led to significant improvements in performance measure relevance and data reliability (see Austin Case History).

As the quality of department performance information has improved, it has become more useful not only to management and City Council, but also as a tool for the City Auditor.  Now, OCA reviews trends in department performance measures as a regular part of the office’s Citywide risk assessment process for determining departments and programs to audit.  In OCA’s risk assessment model, performance trends are a part of a “planning and performance” risk factor for activities, which represents 20% of total risk factors, the highest-weighted factor in the model.   In addition to reviewing whether measured performance has increased or decreased, OCA will also review performance levels against external benchmarks when they are available.  OCA’s activity risk rating also considers whether adequate meaningful performance measures are in place, and whether they are consistently calculated and reported.  OCA’s use of performance trends, benchmark comparisons, assessment of performance measurement quality, and use in its risk assessment process helps the Auditor’s Office find higher-value targets for its regular program of performance auditing.