Today I called Gary A. Jones who heads the Oklahoma Office of the State Auditor and Inspector to discuss the audit process as it pertains to OTA.  

When I called the office in February, my call was directed to Trey Davis who answered several questions.  He told me that OTA has submitted an audit report in 2014, but that the audit year was actually 2013.  I found it odd that an agency that is about to embark on an  $892,000,000.00 project was not being audited yearly.  Naturally I inquired about it.  That's when I was informed that our elected officials in the State Auditors office do not audit OTA.   As an Authority, OTA is allowed to self audit - which is to say, they hire a firm to do the audit and submit the report to the State Auditors Office.  I am unclear if the office reviews the data, or simply posts it to their website, but the process seems shockingly hands off. 

Naturally I wanted to know which firm handles OTA's audits.  I was told the Grant Thornton, an accredited firm, handled the 2013 audit.  I asked how many consecutive years Grant Thornton has been the firm.  Trey didn't know right off hand.  I told him I'd email him so that I had written confirmation of my questions, and the resulting answers.  

2/6/16
Hi Trey,

I spoke with you on the phone recently.  Just trying to learn a little bit about how things work.  Here are a few of my questions.  

Why have the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority's audit's stopped right before an almost billion dollar project launch?  How many consecutive years have Grant Thornton done the audits for OTA?   Who can request a special audit of OTA?  

Thanks in advance!  I appreciate your willingness to help as I learn a bit about how our state agencies are maintained. 



2 /22/16
Reply:

I understand the OTA FY14 audit has now been filed with our office. It is apparently too large for us to email to you (we had to change our parameters to permit it to be loaded to our servers). Grant Thornton, the firm conducting the audit on behalf of OTA has informed us the FY15 audit has not been completed. I don’t have a timeline as to when it may be available online.

Sincerely,

Trey Davis
Office of the State Auditor and Inspector


2/22/16
Thank you Trey.  The last question I had asked was, how many consecutive years has Grant Thornton done the audits for OTA?  This may in fact be my most pressing questions. 


Now that we find ourselves in mid March with no further reply, I decided to call the office again.   I still wanted to know how many consecutive years Grant Thornton has been working for OTA as their client. The assistant I spoke with today indicated that it looked like Grant Thornton had done all the OTA audits from 2008-2015.  When pressed, she admitted that the State Auditor has never audited OTA.  She said, "If we had, it would be here, and you could see it."   The office of State Auditor advises that:  t
hese reports have been submitted by private sector accounting and auditing firms in accordance with 74 O.S. § 212B. Public entities audited by private sector firms include municipalities, public trusts or authorities, and public school districts.  The office makes no warrant as to the propriety of these reports, including but not limited to, whether all presentation requirements have been presented or whether these financial audit reports have been conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

So, where does this leave us?  I can only speak to my own concerns, of which there are many. 

It looks like the audit process for such a large entity takes a very long time.  I can believe that.  I see some oddities in the reporting dates pictured below, but I do think a proper audit requires time.   It also seems that the files required to post the data to the public are large.  As in - 'expand your website before you can host' kind of large.  The sheer size and scope of data instills in me a strong desire to have a second set of eye on these numbers.  

I also find it concerning that a single firm has done audits for the state's most autonomous agency for 8 years straight.  Even with accreditation, it certainly allows for a well developed client relationship.  Friendships are formed, objectivity can be lost.  Is there a standard within the auditing community that is in breach here?   Preliminary research suggests that 5 consecutive years is standard and acceptable.  

My final questions is,
who can request a special audit of OTA?  
I haven't received that answer yet.  I can see that the office of State Auditors performs that service, even stating:  "Every citizen in the State of Oklahoma is served by providing assurance of accountability through Special Audits."   Assurance and accountability sound great!   How can we get some??


 


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