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Overview of Performance Audits at WSDOT

Performance Audit Definition

Performance audits are an independent and systematic assessment of a program’s performance against objective criteria. Performance audits encompass a wide variety of objectives for a given program, including an assessment of effectiveness, efficiency, results, compliance with legal or policy requirements, and management controls.

Critical features of a Performance Audit

  • Audits are to be performed by an independent third party.
  • Address areas required by legislation or citizen initiatives
  • Performance audits must follow professional standards contained in the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (pdf 5.2mb).

Performance Audit History

State Auditor's Office -

In 2005, Initiative 900 granted the State Auditor's Office (SAO) authority to conduct performance audits. The Legislature passed legislation in 2006 directing SAO to carry out comprehensive performance audits of transportation agencies. Given this legislation, SAO conducted an extensive outreach campaign with citizens, including focus groups and town hall meetings, to help identify areas of citizen concern. Later that year, SAO began a series of four transportation performance audits, which included the Washington State Ferries, congestion in Puget Sound, WSDOT administrative operations, and highway maintenance and construction. Reports from these performance audits were issued in late 2007 and early 2008.

Since those initial audits began in 2006, SAO has conducted other performance audits at WSDOT and also included WSDOT in multi-agency performance audits. The completed performance audit page provides links to the published SAO reports.

Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee -

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) works on behalf of the legislature and the citizens of Washington to make state government operations more effective, efficient, and accountable, by conducting about a dozen performance audits and studies each year. JLARC initiates audits as the result of legislative provisos, citizen initiatives and sunset dates. JLARC makes recommendations to the legislature and state agencies to improve the performance of state government and identify cost savings. The completed performance audit page provides links to JLARC WSDOT audits.

Others conducting performance audits

In addition to SAO and JLARC, the Transportation Performance Audit Board (TPAB), Transportation Commission, Joint Transportation Commission, and the Office of Financial Management (OFM) have all conducted multiple performance audits of WSDOT prior to those that the State Auditor is currently conducting.

Performance Audits currently under way

The State Auditor’s Office or Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee’s websites, linked below, provide the latest information on their audits that are in progress or part of the current work plan.

State Auditor’s Performance Audits in progress:
Under way

Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee current scope and objectives:
Under way
Work Plan 

External Links

Government Auditing Standards (aka the Yellow Book):

State Auditor’s Office information on Performance Audits:

Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee information on Performance Audits: 

Guidance from the Governor’s Office on Performance Audits:

Audit Authority

State Auditor's Office -

Legislation: The 2005 Legislature granted the State Auditor the authority to audit transportation agencies. The enabling legislation (ESSB 6103, amended by ESSB 6839) states that:

“Citizens demand and deserve accountability of transportation-related programs and expenditures. Transportation-related programs must continuously improve in quality, efficiency, and effectiveness in order to increase public trust.”

I-900: Initiative 900, approved by Washington voters in November 2005 and enacted into state law in 2006, gave SAO the authority to conduct independent performance audits of state and local government entities on behalf of citizens. The purpose of conducting these performance audits is to promote accountability and cost-effective uses of public resources. Specifically, the law directs SAO to "review and analyze the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of the policies, management, fiscal affairs, and operations of state and local governments, agencies, programs, and accounts.  Read More 

Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) -

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 44.28 grants JLARC the statutory authority to conduct performance audits on behalf of the legislature and the citizens of the state of Washington.

Questions? Please contact:

Steve McKerney
WSDOT Director of Internal Audit

Jesse Daniels
External Audit Liaison