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Opinion: As your auditor, I would protect you from fraud, waste and abuse

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Chris Harding is running for reelection as Salt Lake County auditor

Chris Harding

What does the Salt Lake County auditor do?  Why should I care who the auditor is? Why should I vote for you?

These are the most asked questions I get when talking with people on the campaign trail.  

What does the Salt Lake County auditor do?

The county auditor has two major categories of responsibilities related to property taxes and auditing the county government: Send out a notice of valuation each year to inform property owners what their taxing authorities are doing, and audit the county government for fraud, waste and abuse.  

Why should I care who the auditor is?

The county auditor is the only elected county official whose statutory duty is to look out for you, the taxpayer, and ensure the county isn’t spending your taxes buying $300 hammers, handing out no-bid contracts or allowing money to walk out the back door because internal controls are not operating properly or even missing altogether. 

After our office sent out the property tax notices in August, many residents were unhappy about their property taxes increasing. Regardless of whether or not you are mad about your property taxes, know that they are being spent wisely. Someone is there to protect your compulsory investment in the county. 

Why should I vote for you?

Not only do I have the professional credentials to back up my claim that I know how to audit (CPA, CFE, CIA), I have relevant and recent experience performing audits and managing auditors and audit shops. I know what “right” looks like.

Historically, before I took over, no audits had been performed in compliance with professional standards. 

The reason that this is important is that auditing in compliance with professional standards such as Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) ensures that audits are conducted in an independent, objective and fair manner. It provides protection for both the county as the auditee and the voters and residents.

If audits are performed in compliance with GAGAS, you will know that the auditors performing the work have met the necessary continuing professional education requirements, and the audit shop has a peer review of our management, supervision, fieldwork, work papers and reports at least every three years.

After winning the special election in February by almost 80% of the vote, I took charge of the Salt Lake County Auditor’s office. As a CPA, I quickly identified that the Salt Lake County Auditor’s office has been operating with an impairment to independence since 2012, when the state statute for county auditors was changed, requiring the county auditor to get permission from the legislative body or county executive to perform certain audits. This change requires the help of state legislatures and support from various state associations, our own county council and the governor.  We have been hard at work and hope to have it corrected in the 2023 legislative session. 

There were also no fraud hotline policy or audit committee. We worked with the County Council and just this month passed the first-ever fraud hotline policy for Salt Lake County. After working with the county council and our attorneys, we will have the audit committee up and running before year-end. 

And we quickly found that there were no peer reviews ever. As the county auditor, I have enrolled our office in the peer review program with the Association of Local Government Auditors. I have not only experienced being peer-reviewed, but I participated in the process by giving another audit shop a peer review. Our office is scheduled for its first-ever peer review in the fourth quarter of 2023. 

Salt Lake County needs an auditor with the experience and know-how of auditing and auditing standards, but also the experience to properly set up and manage an audit shop that puts out high-quality audits performed in accordance with GAGAS. This will provide the maximum mitigation from the risk of fraud, waste and abuse.

Chris Harding is running for reelection as Salt Lake County auditor. He has over 16 years of relevant and recent audit experience. He is married with five children and lives in South Jordan.