Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston chat before a debate on April 27. (Alex Edwards/The Denver Gazette)

An audit by Denver City Auditor Timothy O'Brien last week revealed the city has no real mechanism for tracking expenses related to enforcing the city's camping ban.

Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston, candidates in a runoff election to become Denver's next mayor, responded to the shortcoming in an interview. 

O'Brien's audit flagged that the city is likely overestimating how much it spends on responding to homeless encampments. In his report, he called on the next mayor to use his audit as a roadmap on how to start tracking expenses and "better serve our communities in the future." 

Brough looked at O'Brien's audit and said getting accurate tracking is critical, not just for the public's benefit, but also for the city. Keeping an accurate trace on money spent can help build a more accurate and robust budget that can have the proper impact, she said.

"We are capable of tracking those dollars and making sure we're accounting for them," she said. "I would put that responsibility with the team who is leading the work to try to address homelessness in our city and ensure we're tracking all the dollars."

Currently, several departments are responsible for responding to encampments including the Departments of Transportation and Infrastructure, Housing Stability, Public Safety and the police and fire departments, among others. 

Johnston, who has an ambitious plan to build tens of thousands of affordable housing units, wants to see Denver use methods that work in other cities.

Although he did not respond to the question of tracking city expenses, he suggested that conducting a census that would be tracked over time would be beneficial. 

"(This way) you have a count of all the people; you don't just have numbers, you have names and histories," he said. "You want to build relationships and know what their needs are... This is a big part of how you start building a sense of understanding and awareness."

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