On the first of June this year, Gary Blackmer became director of the Secretary of State’s Audits Division. He came to the state after a decade as Portland’s elected city auditor and before that was elected to two terms as the Multnomah County auditor. Blackmer is recognized nationally for his expertise in government auditing and has developed particular proficiency in performance audits, which thoroughly analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of governmental policies, management and fiscal dealings. He answered a few questions for us about his first few months on the job.
Q. What changes do you see for the Audits Division?
A. I’m asking the auditors to dig deeper into the problems they encounter when they audit so we can identify the root causes of problems and make recommendations that help managers pinpoint solutions. I’m finding that auditors are very enthused about this new scope of their responsibilities. They’re leaping into the issues and producing better audits already.
Q. What’s a performance audit?
A. A performance audit looks at how an organization delivers services and figures out where the bottlenecks and obstacles are. So when we point problems out to management, they can improve their service, whether it involves cost or quality or timeliness. A financial audit looks at the money transactions in an organization. Our biggest responsibility in a statewide financial audit is determining whether agency reporting of financial transactions is accurate and reliable. Our other large responsibility is determining whether federal funds were handled in compliance with federal rules.
Q. Will the Audits Division be doing more performance audits than it did in the past?
A. Yes, we will be stretching some of our audits that only looked at rule compliance to look at the larger picture of performance. We’re also looking at ways to apply our financial audit staff to equally important questions about public finance issues.
Q. How can audits help save taxpayer money?
A. In many ways, government gets in its own way in delivering services. As outsiders, we can see things that people in an organization have become accustomed to, things that are unnecessary or duplicative. Finding them are ways we can save money. We can also look at the state’s revenue sources to see if we can bring in additional dollars. We can examine programs to see if they’re accomplishing the objectives set forward by the Legislature. If they’re not, leadership can decide how to better allocate those resources to be more effective.