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Report rips Hillsborough's performance auditor

TAMPA — Hillsborough County's internal performance auditor has received a stinging audit of his own shop.

A peer review ordered by county commissioners and finalized this week says the work done by internal performance auditor Jim Barnes' three-person office does not conform with accepted professional standards. The review found "deficiencies in practice" that were significant enough to impair Barnes' ability to meet those standards.

But the review lays as much blame on how the office is set up and the way commissioners have directed Barnes' work. Until steps are taken to better structure how the office operates, the auditor's office will not be able to "function in a manner that would be independent, objective and competent," according to the report by Richard Tarr, an internal auditor from Orlando.

Barnes said he is already working to implement some of the steps Tarr recommended that he has control over. Some other measures, he said, will have to wait until commissioners address aspects of the report directed at them.

He acknowledged he has made some mistakes, but has tried to learn from them and do his best. He took some exception to some aspects of the report that he said were not based on accepted professional standards.

The report makes recommendations on restructuring the way the office operates to bolster its independence and effectiveness, starting with creating a job description. It suggests moving Barnes' office away from the second floor at County Center where commission offices are located and creating an audit committee of people outside government with knowledge of accounting to review and guide his work.

The report suggests eliminating budget analyst duties, saying that is the county administrator's responsibility and noting that it creates a potential conflict. It also suggests removing the "performance" from Barnes' title because it limits the types of audits he should be performing. Those changes would require amending the county's charter, which must be approved by voters.

As for Barnes, the report says his office has not adopted policies to ensure it complies with professional standards and sometimes doesn't follow its own procedures. It says Barnes does not adequately document his work or the information used to reach findings in his audits, which doesn't meet professional standards.

Commissioners reached Tuesday said they had yet to see the report and were hesitant to react to it.

Voters agreed in 2002 to create the performance auditor position, which now has an annual budget of $388,271.

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com.

Report rips Hillsborough's performance auditor 02/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 11:17pm]
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