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Monday, July 2, 2018 by Jo Clifton

Visit Austin audit revised

The City Council Audit and Finance Committee accepted the results of an audit of the contract between the city and Visit Austin at last week’s meeting. The audit did not find any significant contract compliance issues with Visit Austin, which received $14.9 million from the city for the 2018 budget year.

However, auditors found that the city’s Convention Center Department could do a better job of administering and monitoring the contract between the city and Visit Austin. In the audit, auditors said the Convention Center divisions responsible for administering the contract lacked “a comprehensive approach to verify the accuracy of contract deliverables.”

Although the draft audit stated that “Visit Austin’s financial policies do not have criteria for which expenses are charged to the City versus private funding sources,” that statement does not appear in the final audit report. The Austin Monitor last month reported that statement from a draft version of the audit that was not labeled “draft.”

When Mayor Steve Adler asked about that particular finding from the draft audit, City Auditor Corrie Stokes explained that the contract between the city and Visit Austin did not require the contractor to have financial policies with such criteria.

“As we looked at it, and this was a unique circumstance in that the audit committee was moved up so our exit conference with the Convention Center got moved out, so the combination really didn’t help in this audit. … But the public versus private funds, as we were looking at that, there’s not a requirement in the contract that there be financial policies on how those are allocated. And in addition, in our conversations with the Convention Center staff, it was our understanding that there may be some overlap, but they do present that budget – which does lay out how those funds will be expended, whether it’s public funds or private funds. So between those two things, we considered the feedback and made an adjustment to the report.”

Now that Council has established a city Tourism Commission, the next step in its quest to keep track of how Visit Austin uses city funds might be appointment of one or more of its members to sit on Visit Austin’s board of directors.

Council Member Alison Alter said that she believes Council has not had enough information about how Visit Austin actually works and that it might be helpful to have one or more members of Council on the Visit Austin board. Visit Austin President and CEO Tom Noonan told the Austin Monitor that his organization had already offered a position on the board of directors to a member of Council and noted that an assistant city manager (Mark Washington) is already on the board.

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Photo by Ed Schipul made available under a Creative Commons license.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council Audit and Finance Committee: a sub-group of the Austin City Council. It's members are charged with oversight of city fiscal operations and anything that falls under the purview of the Office of the City Auditor.

Office of the City Auditor: This city department is created by the city's charter in order to establish and ensure "accountability transparency, and a culture of continuous improvement in city operations."

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