Apr 12, 2016
The Denver Zoo today acknowledged the authority of Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, to conduct any audit he identifies as necessary under its agreement with the City and County of Denver.
“Although it took a while for the Zoo to come to this realization, my office is pleased to have the opportunity to examine the records and operation of the Denver Zoological Foundation and related entities,” said O’Brien. “Often organizations have found valuable tools for improvement in our audits.”
Specifically, the Zoo has agreed to provide the Auditor with:
- Access to all Foundation and Zoo documents and records
- Access to an on-site area to work
- Unsupervised access to interview Foundation and Zoo employees
- All other cooperation the Auditor determines is necessary to achieve audit goals
“Most observers found the language in the Cooperative Agreement – first negotiated in 1956 and renewed in 1998 – to give the City Auditor the clear right to perform whatever audit or check the City may require, including a financial audit and a check for compliance with the agreement itself,” explained O’Brien. “Obviously the City cannot tolerate a rogue agency: when you accept public money, you have to accept the oversight that comes with it. I’m glad that the Zoo has decided to accept the oversight appropriate to the use of public funds.”
The audit team previously assigned to the Zoo was given other responsibilities when it became clear that an independent audit could not be conducted in the face of the Zoo’s obstruction. The team will wrap up its other work and again commence the Zoo audit as soon as possible. “We’re looking forward to conducting the audit and establishing a good working relationship with the Zoo to ensure that taxpayer money is spent responsibly,” said Audit Supervisor Katja Freeman.
The Denver Auditor’s Office sent notice to the Zoo of its planned audit in November, 2015. Since then the Zoo has raised obstacles to the conduct of the audit. By the City Charter, the Auditor is required to follow generally accepted auditing standards promulgated by the United States Comptroller General. In contravention of audit industry standards, the Zoo refused to let staff interviews proceed without the presence of management and board members. Despite receiving millions of dollars in public money, the Zoo claimed its financial records were confidential. In response to questions about the proposed waste-to-energy or gasification plant, the Zoo’s spokeswoman claimed that no information was available beyond its September press release announcing the cessation of the on-site project.
Read the Zoo’s April 12 press release.