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Georgia’s fiscal oversight agency

POSTED: May 26, 2014 1:50 p.m.

When Governor Deal recently vetoed a bill involving misdemeanor probation collection companies, he referred to areas of concern in the bill, but also part of the controversy over the bill stemmed from an audit report released by the Department of Audits and Accounts that raised questions about the operation of these companies in local governments (audit released April 24 – www.audits.ga.gov). This is an example of one of the roles that the Department of Audits plays in state government: the role of oversight, accountability and adherence to law. These performance audits can be requested by the Legislature or by the governor although the department is a legislative agency.

Though rare, the presence of fraud and mismanagement of public money can threaten the trust of citizens in their government.The Department of Audits and Accounts protects the public interest by ensuring accurate financial reporting, as well as ensuring that taxpayer dollars have been spent wisely and efficiently and that financial information is transparent. Although they may take very different forms, audits in general are thorough reviews of financial or other records, seeking to determine whether funds or other resources are used appropriately.

Professional expertise
DOAA employs 270 professionals in its nine divisions and the Office of Quality Assurance, and its employees hold 77 advanced degrees, 78 CPAs, and 125 other professional certifications. While financial audits make up a majority of DOAA’s workload, the department also reports on the performance of state agencies, the assessment of property in the state, reimbursements to health care providers, and other programs within the state, as required by law. Each year, DOAA publishes almost 500 audit reports, including reports on the use of state appropriations by state agencies, on financial control systems, agency operations, and follow-up reports to verify action taken in response to previous DOAA reports.

Also, DOAA reviews numerous audits and reports produced by other organizations.You may sign up on the Audits Web site to receive audits automatically as released. (www.audits.ga.gov/ExternalSubscriber/subscriber/create)

Assessing state and local operations
A majority of DOAA employees work on audits that assess state and local operations in two divisions, education and state government. The Education Audit Division, the largest division with 104 employees, conducts annual audits of all colleges and universities in the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia.

It also audits every county and city school district in Georgia from its eight regional offices, providing necessary information on the financial health of systems. Georgia and federal law requires that each school district receives an annual financial audit, though school districts also use these audits before funding capital projects through the sale of public bonds.

In 2012, DOAA audits resulted in $660,000 in questioned costs and 580 recommendations on how school districts could improve their financial control processes.

The State Government Division audits all state agencies, as required by state law, and performs special audits as requested by the General Assembly. The division shares responsibility with the State Accounting Office for the annual Single Audit Report and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, both of which cover the state of Georgia as a whole. The state cannot sell bonds until this report is complete.

Under the direction of Georgia’s Transparency in Government Act, this division also operates the Open Georgia Web site (http://www.open.georgia.gov), which provides information on state employee salaries, employee travel expenses, financial reports, and other documents related to the use of taxpayer money.

Health care and sales ratio divisions provide important information
Fulfilling specific obligations, the Healthcare Audits Division reviews the costs of nursing homes to assist the Department of Community Health when it sets reimbursement rates. It monitors care management organizations, as required by federal law, to assure the proper access, availability, and capacity of health care services to Medicaid recipients. The Healthcare Audits Division also audits provider claims to guarantee that these claims are legitimate, preventing fraud and the waste of state health care dollars.

The Sales Ratio Division publishes the statewide-equalized adjusted property tax digest, an annual report on how property is valued across Georgia. Division staff review about 400,000 property sales and 5,400 property appraisals throughout the state each year to determine whether local governments are equitably and fairly determining the value of property for tax purposes.

The tax digest is required to determine key portions of the Quality Basic Education formula for K-12 education funding. For each school district, the local five mill share (FY15 state total $1.7 billion) and the amount of equalizing funds (FY15 state total $482 million) are calculated using the verified value of property within each jurisdiction.

The state must also examine how property is valued across the state to meet federal legal requirements related to public utilities.

Next week: Performance reviews

I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7092 (fax)
E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
Or call toll-free at
1-800-367-3334 day or night
Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

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