720-913-5000 auditor@denvergov.org

Audit Report

Community Planning and Development – Building Permits

The objective of this audit was to evaluate how well the Community Planning and Development Department processes building permits for residential and commercial construction, including an assessment of the functionality and usability of the permitting system, an examination of the efficiency of the permitting process and a look at the alignment between permitting fees and the department’s staffing resources.

Watch the Audit Committee presentation here.

Denver is growing quickly, and we want to ensure the process for planning projects is effectively meeting city objectives and efficient for customers. Our audit encouraged continued change within the department, and Planning and Development is employing technology and other resources to improve the process.
Our audit showed Community Planning and Development needed greater efficiency in processing permits. Specifically, we identified three areas that needed to be addressed by the department to improve residential and commercial building permit processes.

First, the existing construction plan intake practices appeared to increase customer wait times for the submission of building permit applications. Second, we identified instances where the agency did not consistently adhere to city policies and fiscal accountability rules related to the city’s fee structure for resubmitted plans or the deposit of checks for concept reviews.

Lastly, we noted that although the agency’s change management process for the permitting system is effective, former employees continue to have access. The department agreed with all but one of our 11 recommendations.

  1. Plan Intake Staff Training – The Intake Supervisor should develop and implement a training plan that addresses the intake process for all permits processed by Development Services. Specifically, the training should address the steps needed to process both residential and commercial permit applications including the appropriateness of customer documentation, entry of required data into Accela and scheduling of all required plan reviews. Additionally, the Intake Supervisor should assess whether additional resources are needed to assist with the training of staff.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date – November, 2017 for assessment of resources; December, 2018 for update of training efforts
  2. Plan Intake Queue Management – The Intake Supervisor should develop a strategy for determining how and when intake staff should focus their efforts on assisting customers in the Login Queue.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date: November, 2017
  3. Storage and Retention of Construction Plans – The Engineer/Architect Director should develop a filing system that allows plan engineers to easily identify and locate plans that are scheduled to be reviewed. Furthermore, additional resources should be allocated to the archiving process to ensure efficient retention and retrieval of approved plans.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date: December, 2018
  4. Customer Survey Feedback and Trending – The Intake Supervisor along with the Deputy Director should establish a customer survey feedback loop to ensure that customer service issues are being addressed. Further, quarterly or annual trend analysis of reported issues should be conducted and shared with supervisors in order to identify frequently reported issues and to determine whether their strategies to address issues are working.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date: November, 2017
  5. Fee Setting Policy – The Executive Director of Community Planning and Development in collaboration with the Budget and Management Office should establish an internal fee setting policy that is in alignment with City Financial Policies.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date: November, 2017
  6. Periodic Assessment of Fees – The Executive Director of Community Planning and Development in collaboration with the Budget and Management Office should conduct periodic fee assessments to determine the cost of services provided and whether such costs are in alignment with CPD and City policies. At a minimum, the department should include both direct costs and indirect costs in their fee assessment. Furthermore, the department should perform fee assessments at least biennially.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date: November, 2017
  7. Modification to Building Permit Policy – The City Building Official should review and update its Building Permit Policy related to incomplete or rejected plans and consider the following: a) allow for engineering judgment, b) provide general guidance and criteria for exceptions to billing requirements, c) charge timely to all plan review costs incurred, d) collect and track resubmittal fee costs or, e) reassess hourly rates and minimum review billing requirements.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date: December, 2018
  8. Reporting and Monitoring Resubmittals – The Deputy Director should consider enhancing their current practices related to the tracking and monitoring of resubmittals to include an evaluation of reasons why plans are resubmitted and where applicable, provide customers with the education needed to help reduce the number of resubmittals per construction project.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date: November, 2017
  9. Resubmittal Fee General Ledger Account – The Office of the Manager should work with the Controller’s Office to establish a separate general ledger account for resubmittal fees. Periodically, the Office of the Manager should perform an analysis of the fees charged to this account.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date: November, 2017
  10. Adherence to Fiscal Accountability Rules – The Office of the Manager should review its current cash handling policy to ensure that department’s current deposit requirements are in alignment with FAR 3.4. Where applicable, the department should discuss policy deviations with CRCF and determine whether CPD needs to obtain a policy exemption from CRCF. Lastly, the department should ensure that staff are appropriately trained on the requirements of and procedures related to the deposit of funds.
    Auditee Response: Agree, Implementation Date: July, 2017
  11. Access to Accela – The Office of the Manager should work collaboratively with Technology Services to perform regular access reviews over all users with access to Accela.
    Auditee Response: Disagree
Follow-up report

A follow-up report is not yet complete.

Other related reports

None at this time.

Audit Team: Katja E.V. Freeman, Yvonne Harris-Lott, Rudy Lopez, Tyler Kahn, Ronald F. Keller, Chris Wat

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Stay updated once a month with news from our office and Auditor O'Brien

Thanks for your interest in the auditor's office!