Normally, Denver City Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien releases a report finding fault with a city agency and the leadership of that department agrees to make the recommended changes.
And normally, that’s the end of it.
Not so on Thursday when O’Brien sharply criticized two city agencies for only partially following through on recommendations that they had agreed to implement.
O’Brien called out the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation plus Denver Arts and Venues for a pair of follow-up audits that found the agreed-upon changes were not being carried out.
“I see a pattern in our recent follow-up work,” O’Brien said in a prepared statement. “Agencies are saying they agree with our recommended changes but then fail to follow through.”
“The purpose of our audits is to help identify areas where the city could better serve the people of Denver,” he added. “If our recommendations are ignored or not fully completed, agencies might not be doing their best work on behalf of the people.”
At Arts and Venues, an earlier audit took issue with how city officials were monitoring the agency’s contract with Aramark Corp., which operates concessions at the Denver Coliseum and at the city's Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Specifically, the original 2018 audit found that the management had not started formally reconciling inventory and sales. It also found issues with spoilage and employee meals.
Arts and Venues officials told the auditor’s office at an April 2018 meeting that they already had implemented a recommendation to calculate spoilage costs from previous years.
However, a follow-up audit this spring found that the agency had used incorrect numbers and determined that the recommendation had not been implemented.
A spokesman for Arts and Venues said compliance with the audit continues to be "a work in progress."
"Particularly when policy and procedure are changed, it’s up to the agency to figure out how to comply - the Auditor’s office doesn’t provide recommendation," spokesman Brian Kitts said in an email.
"And, in the middle of this, as noted, the Aramark contract was being reviewed per City policy," Kitts added.
"Now that the new contract is in place, a couple of those things should fall into place," he said. "We appreciate the Auditor’s comments and will continue working to comply with the concerns listed."
O'Brien said it's important for agencies, "to take our recommendations seriously."
“We take a close look at every agency we audit, and that fresh perspective should be useful to agencies in spurring progress and improvements," O'Brien said.
An earlier audit of the Parks Department found a need for a more customer-oriented plan and suggested ways to improve customer satisfaction, ensure cost recovery and make the permitting process clear for users.
But the follow-up audit found that Parks had fully implemented only two of the six recommendations.
The audit team found that Parks officials have started using customer surveys to get feedback on the permit process. But it also found that they were not consistently reviewing customer satisfaction across all types of permits.
A Parks spokeswoman said the department will continue working on the recommendations.
“Denver Parks & Recreation appreciates the feedback provided by the Auditor’s Office and will continue to address the items identified,” spokeswoman Cynthia Karvaski said in an email.
O’Brien gave Parks officials some credit for trying.
“I can see the Department of Parks and Recreation is working to improve,” he said. “The satisfaction of the people we serve is the ultimate goal, and I would like to see more improvement in a more timely manner going forward.”