Audit gives Vancouver port good marks

Reports focus on performance of finance department

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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As a local government with a mission to create jobs, the Port of Vancouver counts both taxpayers and businesses as investors, handling millions of dollars connected to a variety of transportation and other projects.

But is it protecting public assets? Does it keep its financial house in order?

The answers: Yes and yes, according to the Washington Auditor's Office, the watchdog of state and local governments.

In two separate reports released Monday, the Auditor's Office said the port's "internal controls were adequate to safeguard public assets" and that it had "no deficiencies" in its internal controls over financial matters.

Theresa Wagner, the port's communications chief, said the reports reflect the port's dedication to continuously improving its performance.

"We have a really good team of people in our financial department who track grants and who watch the finances of the port, and we have a lot of policies and procedures in place, and we're always looking to do it better," she said.

The reports issued covered port activities in 2012. An "accountability audit report" examined the port's accountability and compliance with state laws and regulations, as well as its own policies and procedures. The "Financial Statements and Federal Single Audit" investigated the port's financial statements and conformity with federal laws and regulations.

Under the accountability audit report, the state Auditor's Office reviewed the financial activities of the port that have "the highest risk of noncompliance, misappropriation or misuse," according to State Auditor Troy Kelley. Those included property lease billings, purchases, payroll and credit cards, and insurance and bonding. In all of those and other cases examined by Kelley, the port's procedures adequately safeguarded public assets, and the port complied with state laws and its own internal policies.

Under the "Financial Statements and Federal Singe Audit" report, the Auditor's Office inspected the port's financial reporting and its handling of about $14.2 million in competitive federal grant dollars spent in 2012. The port showed "no deficiencies in the design or operation" of its financial reporting and of its supervision of federal grants, according to the report. It had no "material weaknesses" in its financial statements.

About $8.9 million of the $14.2 million in federal dollars spent in 2012 went to construct the Gateway overpass project, which is slated for completion later this summer. That project is designed to provide vehicle access across the port's expanding rail corridor.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com