As you know, in 2015 the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill that now allows Minnesota counties to hire private accounting firms to conduct their annual audits. With this law change, county administrators, auditors/treasurers, finance directors, and commissioners have found themselves seeking information about how to choose a qualified audit firm that will best fit their county’s needs. Although individual counties may have slightly different needs, the following criteria should be considered:
Because counties are accountable to numerous stakeholders, including taxpayers, cities, school districts, the state, the federal government, and bondholders, the auditor’s reputation for quality and commitment to technical excellence should be a critical component in your county’s evaluation criteria. Factors to consider include the following:
Maintaining independence and objectivity is vital to the audit process, and your auditor must be free from any conflicts of interest that may give rise to questions about their ability to remain independent throughout the period of the audit engagement. Because auditor independence is so important, many governments request a statement confirming independence as part of the auditor selection process.
Service and communication may be last on this list, but they are certainly not least in terms of importance. The firm you choose should be willing to work with you on your timeline, be proactive in communicating changes and responsive to questions, and be accessible throughout the year to make certain the process is efficient and any issues are addressed promptly and appropriately.
When assessing service providers, consider how the provider interacts with you during the proposal process. If they are actively engaged in seeking to understand your people, processes, and technology during the proposal process, there is a good chance they will be responsive and timely if selected to serve as your auditor.
Following a Request for Proposal (RFP) process is a common approach to selecting an auditor and will yield solid information about potential providers of audit services. There are several steps to help ensure your RFP process provides the information you require to evaluate and select a firm with a great reputation for quality, integrity, and service:
Choosing an auditor is an important element of a county’s fiscal responsibility. The first step involves reviewing your county’s needs and requirements and from there, determining the most qualified and capable provider of the service.