Release: Fire Marshall Audit Hindered by Disorganized Data in Baltimore City Fire Department

Crest of the City of Baltimore

Bill Henry
Baltimore City
204 City Hall - Baltimore Maryland 21202
(410) 396-5410


Geoff Shannon, Public Relations Officer
(410) 387-5704


Baltimore, Md. –The Department of Audits (DOA) was unable to complete a comprehensive review of Baltimore City Fired Department (BCFD)’s Use & Occupancy permit review and annual fire inspection processes because of a lack of reliable, readily available data, according to a biennial audit report of the agency.  


The report, presented to the Board of Estimates at its May 1st, 2024, meeting, found that BCFD, through the Office of the Fire Marshall (OFM), does not “monitor critical tasks and milestones that would enable it to evaluate the efficiency of the fire permit issuance process for both annual and U&O inspections. Without the ability to monitor the fire inspection permit process, BCFD cannot demonstrate that they are efficiently performing inspections and identify areas to improve.” 

BCFD could not establish benchmarks to compare the actual time it takes to complete an inspection and issue a permit and cannot identify and assess the causes of delays for permits. The Fire Department’s available data is also insufficient to run accurate reports to support this monitoring and record milestones, according to the report.  

Though DOA could not complete the full audit objective, they were able to establish that permit processing times in FY2022 improved to 58 and 53 days from 76 and 62 days in FY2021. 

“It’s not a good sign when our auditors are unable to meet the objective because an agency couldn’t track their own operations, " said Comptroller Bill Henry, "but it is a good sign that BCFD has both transitioned relevant leadership and identified a permit software solution to address this issue. It's easier to help agencies improve when we have open-minded partners and all of the data we need to fully assess the situation.”

Next Steps 

DOA recommended the Office of the Fire Marshall:  

  • Establish expected turnaround times for key tasks.  
  • Start tracking dates for key tasks in the respective systems.  
  • Identify a unique identifier to join data from significant systems.  
  • Make sure these significant systems have controls to protect data integrity.  
  • Monitor efficiency and causes of delays.   

OFM management agreed to the findings and have committed to implementing a new permit system as early as December 2024. A full copy of the audit and an explainer are both available on the Comptroller’s website.  

About the Department of Audits 

DOA is the City's independent auditor, providing various audits, attestation engagements, and assurance services with the overall goal of improving government accountability. In addition to the Biennial Audits, DOA performs the Single Audit, the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR), the financial statement audit of the Enoch Pratt free Library, reviews for City contracts prior to BOE consideration, and additional projects as requested by management.

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