DENVER – Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, is taking action to ensure professional standards for the Auditor’s Office by proposing a new law requiring all future elected city Auditors be certified public accountants.
“The Auditor’s role is an essential check and balance on our strong mayor system,” Auditor O’Brien said. “I believe the people of Denver deserve a guarantee the Auditor will always be qualified for the job and that this office will always be able to produce the same quality of work.”
Auditor O’Brien has formed a committee to explore how best to create a law that states simply: “The elected Auditor of the City and County of Denver shall be a certified public accountant licensed in the state of Colorado.”
The professional qualification requirement for the Denver Auditor is already implied in city charter language, state law and auditing standards. The Denver Charter mandates the Auditor perform financial audits in addition to performance audits. State law, along with generally accepted government auditing standards published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, both require anyone conducting financial audits demonstrate competency and expertise in the form of a CPA license.
“I attend events in the community regularly, and when I talk to people, they’re surprised this isn’t already the law,” Auditor O’Brien said. “It seems like a common-sense change.”
The Auditor’s Office’s mission includes safeguarding and improving the public’s investment in Denver on behalf of everyone who cares about the city. Holding the state CPA license ensures a required standard of ethics and professionalism Auditor O’Brien believes is essential to the success of this mission.
“I want a legacy of professionalism in leadership to outlast me,” Auditor O’Brien said. “I want the next person who holds this office — and the next, and the next — to all be equally as qualified. I want the Auditor’s independence and professionalism enshrined in law.”
Auditor O’Brien is only the second elected Auditor with a CPA license. Under Auditor O’Brien’s leadership, every agency knows it is expected to answer for how it uses tax dollars.
“I am proud of the level of expertise and skill I have encouraged and developed in the office today, and now I want to ensure those standards outlast me,” Auditor O’Brien said.
The Auditor’s Office staff have a diverse array of qualifications and certifications, which make our audit work stronger. Auditor O’Brien believes a CPA license is the necessary qualification to lead this group of professionals, just as the state’s auditor is required to be a CPA.
As Denver’s Auditor, Auditor O’Brien also signs off on every contract in the city. He believes his knowledge and experience as an auditor helps him make sure every contract the city finalizes contains a guarantee the contract can be audited, as required by the Denver Charter.
“We have seen what happens when a weak audit clause slips into a contract, which happened with the Westin hotel at Denver’s airport,” Auditor O’Brien said. “The public deserves accountability.”
The Denver district attorney must be a licensed attorney, and Auditor O’Brien says the same expectation of qualification should apply to a CPA for Auditor.
“Our elected district attorney must be an attorney. The state Auditor must be a CPA. It stands to reason we should expect at least as much from the elected Denver Auditor,” Auditor O’Brien said. “This change is necessary for the ongoing health of our government.”