Release: Audit Recommends New Procedures, Accounting for BCFD’s Fire and Special Events Programs

Crest of the City of Baltimore

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

geoff.shannon@baltimorecity.gov

 

Baltimore, MD - This week, Comptroller Bill Henry and City Auditor Josh Pasch presented a Biennial Performance Audit of the Baltimore City Fire Department, offering recommendations and examining prior findings.

The audit concluded that while there are practices are in place BCFD does not have formalized policies or strong financial controls over how it collects revenue from its fire watch and special events programs. Fire watch programs provide 24-hour support and surveillance for structures that could be potential fire hazards, while special events include most paid-for public facing activities.

Among the performance audit findings:

  • BCFD needs to improve how it handles managing and collecting fees for paid-for fire watch activities.
  • Documentation and performance reviews are needed for fire watch activities.
  • Rates for fire watches and special events are outdated and need to be increased.

The Department of Audits recommended that BCFD segregate aspects of the Level III fire watch and special event activities to avoid fraud, and that the Fire Department and the City’s Department of Finance should move the entire billing process to Workday, the city’s new human resources and accounting software.

The audit also recommends BCFD should formalize and implement a set of fire watch program policies using new software, and that fees for fire watch and special events coverage should upgrade to match current BCFD overtime expenses. 

“These types of minor transactions can feel like small potatoes, but when you add them up across a dozen city agencies it stands out as important revenue that could be supporting resident services,” said Pasch.

The Department of Audits also reviewed prior recommendations made in the previous Biennial Performance Audit, covering years 2018 and 2017. Two of those recommendations, concerning Continuity of Operations Plan through the Office of Emergency Management and aspects of fire code enforcement, had not been implemented by the current audit.

The Fire Department will come back before the Board of Estimates in 2022 to update members on their audit implementation plan.

Comptroller Bill Henry shared, “Our goal with every audit is to continue to highlight areas where we can improve transparency and accountability.”

The full audit can be found on the Comptroller’s Office website, here: https://comptroller.baltimorecity.gov/audits/reports.

This is the second of seven audits that are part of the 2021 Biennial Audit plan approved by the Biennial Audits Commission this past March.

Background

The Department of Audits (DOA) is the city's independent auditor, providing various audit attestation engagements and assurance services with the overall goal of improving government accountability.

The DOA, pursuant to Article V § 11, performs biennial audits of agencies. In 2021, this includes: The Department of Finance, the Department of Public Works, the Baltimore City Fire Department, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Department of General Services, the Baltimore Development Corporation, Baltimore City Information Technology, and the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services.

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