The Audit Process

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The Office of Auditing and Evaluation

The OIG’s Office of Auditing and Evaluation conducts audits and other reviews of DOT’s transportation programs and activities to ensure they operate economically, efficiently, and effectively. Our audits cover all of DOT’s transportation sectors, from aviation, highways, railroads and mass transit, to motor carriers, maritime shipping, pipelines and transportation research. In accordance with the Inspector General Act of 1978 (as amended), and to maintain our independence and objectivity, the OIG does not engage in making policy decisions for the Department or assist in operating DOT programs.

The office staff includes over 250 auditors, analysts, information technology experts, economists, statisticians, editors, and other specialists at DOT’s Washington, D.C. headquarters and at eight field offices throughout the country. We disseminate our findings and recommendations to DOT, Congress, and the public through reports, testimonies, and advisories.

How Do We Decide What to Audit?

We get ideas for audits from a variety of sources. We initiate some audits based on our own ongoing research and assessments of DOT’s major challenges. We conduct other audits at the request of members of Congress, congressional committees, or DOT officials. We also perform audits that are referred from our Office of Investigations.  Finally, we conduct some audits that are required by law. To help us identify and prioritize audit issues, we develop long-range strategic plans.

How Do We Conduct an Audit?

Our audit teams follow four basic stages in conducting an audit.

An audit team starts by surveying a research topic. We look at prior reports and other work done on the subject. We develop an audit plan, which identifies the proposed objectives, the criteria (e.g., existing laws, policies, procedures), the kind of information needed to evaluate the DOT program or activity, and the methods that will be used to gather and analyze the information. The team then presents its proposed plan at an internal meeting held to decide whether the audit will move forward or not.

Once a decision to proceed is made, the team begins to gather the information needed. We may examine agency documents, interview officials, send out questionnaires, inspect facilities, or mine data from a computer database. Based on a careful analysis of this evidence, we decide whether the DOT program is operating as it should or whether there are problems that need to be addressed. The team presents its preliminary findings and recommendations to OIG managers who help focus and refine the message.

In the next stage, the team writes a draft report incorporating its findings and recommendations. We ensure that the report is objective, fact-based, and fair. We document all our work and supporting evidence. We thoroughly check all facts and analyses to make sure the report is accurate. And we send a copy of the draft to the audited DOT agency for review and comment.

Once the team has incorporated DOT’s written comments, we issue the final audit report. The report is disseminated to DOT officials and members of Congress and is made available to the general public. Over the following months, we continue to monitor DOT’s actions taken to address the recommendations made in our final report.

Departmental Cooperation

On January 23, 2015, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx highlighted his support for ongoing cooperation with the Office Of Inspector General through a Department-wide memorandum. In his memorandum, the Secretary reminded DOT employees of their duty to cooperate with the OIG in fulfilling our responsibilities under the Inspector General Act, including providing information and assistance in a timely manner. 

Audit Recommendation Follow-Up

After a final audit report is issued, the team records all recommendations into a central database. This generally occurs within 5 business days, although Financial Statement audit recommendations may require up to 60 days to be recorded. On a monthly basis, OIG provides the Department with status reports of all open recommendations that require a management decision or final corrective action. Finally, the audit team continues to monitor the Department’s actions in response to the recommendations until the Department provides OIG with sufficient supporting evidence that appropriate corrective action was taken, after which OIG closes the recommendations.