The city of Denton Streets division is shoring up some management practices after a recent review by the city’s internal auditors.
Internal auditor Madison Rorschach detailed for the City Council this week what the review found, and what officials are changing to better manage the $310 million value in the city’s streets. The presentation was part of an hour-long work session between the internal auditor’s office and council members Tuesday afternoon.
The review examined how the streets division plans its work, monitors current street conditions and makes sure repairs are done as expected, Rorschach said.
Overall, the division did well with planning, she said, including coordinating with other departments, such as underground utilities. The auditor’s office recommended one change in planning tools for equity, “and they did that for the [November] 2019 bond election,” Rorschach said.
She noted that street repairs proposed as part of Proposition B are covering three under-served areas.
The auditor also reviewed a special database that indexes street conditions with a score between 1 and 100 (with 100 being the best). The review pinpointed soft spots in the data.
“There were various quality issues that made it hard to analyze the data,” she said.
Some of the data fixes were easier than others. Staff training could help get data updated after a street is repaired and its condition improved, she said.
The department did a good job accounting for bond-funded work, but a targeted audit of 30 street repairs showed that what was planned didn’t always line up with the work that got done, Rorschach said.
Daniel Kremer, deputy director of operations, explained that the streets division uses the condition index to start its plan, and then takes samples in the worst spots to be better prepared.
“We plan for it [the repair], but when we really see the condition of the street is when we take the top off,” Kremer said. “We stand by the repairs we did, but we just don’t have the documentation.”
In other words, a street crew may see and decide that a road needs to be rebuilt, but the division didn’t have documents to show that supervisors signed off on the decision to do more work.
The division is working on a procedure to make sure that if a repair crew finds an issue, the changes go up the ladder, everyone signs off understanding what work will be done, Kremer said.
Council member Keely Briggs said she found the report interesting and she thought others would, too.
“The streets are pretty popular here,” she said, to some light laughter in the room.
Since 2012, voters have authorized $44 million to fix the city’s bone-rattling roads, and are being asked to fund $154 million more in November.
City Manager Todd Hileman said that the audit worked in tandem with efforts by Kremer, city Engineer Todd Estes and others to set up standard operating procedures and documents that haven’t existed in the streets department before.
“I don’t want that to escape notice — what they’ve done in last two years is pretty impressive,” Hileman said.
Rorschach told council members that the internal auditor’s office expected the division to address the issues raised by early next year, but they will follow up with another audit in the future.
She also made a brief presentation on an audit of the city’s accounts payable department. Auditors made 13 recommendations that they expect the department to address, including billing issues with an office supply company that was making it difficult for city employees to verify purchases and deliveries.
City Auditor Umesh Dalal also outlined a proposed work plan for his office next year, which the council agreed to mull over before a final vote in the next week or two.
In addition to similar department reviews, Dalal plans two comprehensive assessments, one of Denton Municipal Electric and another of capital projects.
Dalal told council members he expected the audit of capital projects to take two years. The audit of DME is a scaled-back version of an audit he plans to conduct citywide on internal controls according to Government Accountability Office standards.
“This is more than just a regular evaluation of internal controls,” Dalal said, adding that the audit examines the government structure, how authority and responsibility get delegated and how risk is tolerated.
“DME provides a significant public service,” Dalal said, adding that the city manager agreed with starting this citywide audit in the electric department.
Council member Deb Armintor asked for a specific check whether the city continued to be at risk with power line easements. Several years ago, the city faced a lawsuit from property owners along Bonnie Brae Street when DME upgraded its power lines between West University Drive and Scripture Street.
City Attorney Aaron Leal said he would prepare a briefing so that council members could review the issues surrounding that case and possible new encroachments that Armintor brought to light.