Commissioners miffed by audit

The county was one of eight required to undergo an audit of its building inspection fees.

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WALLA WALLA -- A recent audit of how Walla Walla County handles its building inspection fees raised the ire of county commissioners Monday.

Mandated by a state Senate bill passed last year, the study by the Washington state Auditors Office used up county staff workers' time and effort, but produced little or no good results, commissioners told an evaluator.

"It's been a time-consuming, job-creating process," Commissioner Perry Dozier told Beverly Stein of the Public Strategies Group, which was hired to collect input on the audit. "We spent Walla Walla County taxpayers' dollars here and we don't know where we are or what we accomplished."

Commissioners Greg Tompkins and Gregg Loney also were critical of the audit and its results during a telephone interview with Stein.

"I was not impressed. It was a waste of money," Tompkins said.

The county was one of eight required by Senate Bill 1520 to undergo an audit of building inspection fees. The audit was conducted last summer, said Tom Glover, county community development director.

Glover said while communications with the consultant hired by the state to do the audit were good, talks with the state Auditor's Office staff were "confusing." The end product also was confusing, Glover told Stein.

"It did not account for all the data we supplied, attributed costs where there were none and left out costs where they should be incorporated into the formula," he said.

In sum, Glover said, "(The state Auditor's) staff did not portray themselves as having a thorough understanding of the study, or its value or why they were doing it, other than to tell us the legislature is requiring it, which we already knew."

Auditor's Office staff also couldn't answer why Walla Walla County was selected for auditing, other than to say it was picked by the Legislature, nor could the staff offer any helpful advice as to how to handle the situation "other than to tell us we have to submit a report ... some time in July indicating what progress has been made toward meeting the recommendations set out in the report."

Loney told Stein the state legislators who mandated the audit, along with the state Auditor's Office, should have made sure they had a clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish.

"It's really, in my humble opinion, very poorly done," he said. "What should have been done (was) to find out what was the real intent of the legislation. Before they go out and do another one of these, they need a clearly defined process."

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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