The City Controller is the elected paymaster, auditor and chief accounting officer for the City of Los Angeles. Along with the Mayor and City Attorney, the Controller is one of three offices elected every four years by citywide popular vote.
In 1878, the position was created as the City Auditor, becoming an elected office in 1889. The 1925 City Charter changed the name of the position to City Controller. In 2000, a City Charter update granted the Controller the power to conduct performance audits of City departments, allowing an examination of departmental effectiveness.
Ron Galperin is the City’s 19th Controller, elected in 2013 and again in 2017. Controller Galperin oversees a team of more than 160 employees who conduct independent audits, manage the City’s payroll and spending, report on the City’s finances, and provide City metrics and data online.
In order to fulfill the Controller’s Charter-mandated functions, the City Controller’s office has three major divisions – Audit Services, Accounting Operations, and Financial Reporting and Analysis – in addition to Executive Office and Management Services leadership and staff.
The Executive Office supports the Controller with staff dedicated to communications, scheduling, technology and innovation, outreach and government affairs. Management Services is responsible for all aspects of personnel, departmental payroll, budgeting, accounting and facility management for the Controller’s office. Below is a closer look at Audit Services, Accounting Operations and Financial Reporting and Analysis.
The Audit Services Division of the Controller’s Office conducts scheduled audits, special audits, and audits requested by the City Council or City management. Audits determine if existing controls in City departments are adequate, guage whether departments are operating efficiently and effectively, and ensure that revenues and expenditures are properly recorded in conformance with applicable laws and regulations. City auditors recommend improvements that promote efficiency and effectiveness of City operations and save taxpayer dollars. This division conducts the following types of audits:
Financial and Compliance Audits
Financial-related audits determine whether financial information is presented in accordance with established or stated criteria, and whether the internal control structure over financial reporting and safeguarding of assets is suitably designed and implemented to achieve its objectives. These audits also include routine payroll observations and reviews of departmental bank accounts.
Performance and operational audits of City departments and programs are mandated by the City Charter, and assess whether government programs or functions are efficiently and effectively achieving their goals.
Special Analysis and Reviews
These are different types of reports that do various things, such as tracking the implementation status of audit recommendations as asserted by management, follow-up audits to independently ensure implementation status, and other special assignments as directed. On an as-needed basis, the division also performs information systems audits, such as general control reviews, application reviews, and post-implementation systems reviews to ensure system functionality and data integrity. In addition, the division performs vendor reviews for selected contracts.
Fraud, Waste and Abuse Unit
The City of Los Angeles aims to be as transparent and efficient as possible, going above and beyond to protect taxpayers’ assets and preserve government integrity. Critical to these efforts is tracking reports of fraud, waste and abuse of City resources, a core function of the Controller’s office for 15 years.
Since its creation, the Controller’s Fraud, Waste and Abuse Unit has sought to identify, stop and, ultimately, prevent the misuse of City resources by employees and others. This is done through a 24-hour telephone hotline and web-based complaint form, along with citywide education and training programs.
The Accounting Operations Division is responsible for paying employees and vendors, budgetary control of all City funds as authorized by ordinance, pre- and post-audit approval, and release of City funds. This division is comprised of the following sections:
Funds and Appropriations Section
The Funds and Appropriations Section is responsible for budgetary control of all City funds authorized by ordinance, the Mayor and City Council. The section verifies the availability of funds before releasing expenditures for all City departments. This section also sets up the budget appropriations within the City’s General Ledger in accordance with the approved budget. It reviews, analyzes and audits all journal entries to ensure compliance with the City Charter, Administrative Code and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
Fiscal Oversight and Support Section
Fiscal Oversight and Support is responsible for the review and approval of demands (payments) against the City Treasury. The section establishes Citywide policies and procedures regarding receipt of goods and services, payment processing, and disbursement of City funds. The section is also responsible for the filing and remittance of payroll, sales, and use taxes to federal and State agencies. The section also administers the Citywide Travel and Purchasing Card programs.
The Payroll Section is the central payroll-processing unit for the City of Los Angeles. It ensures that the City processes its payroll and pays its employees in a timely manner and in accordance with the City Charter, Administrative Code (Division 4), Civil Service Rules, Department Personnel Ordinances, Memorandums of Understandings, and state and federal regulations. This section also provides support to PaySR, the City’s payroll system and is responsible for system enhancements and updates.
The Paymaster Section is responsible for the security, control and disbursement of all warrants (checks) for City vendors, workers’ compensation and payroll. This section is also responsible for enforcing legal wage garnishments against City employees and vendors, and disbursing funds collected through the voluntary child and spousal support payroll deduction program.
The Financial Analysis and Reporting Division is responsible for producing federal, state and local financial compliance reports, and providing financial reports and forecasts to the City Council and management. The Division also include oversight of the City’s Financial System, FMS. The following are the sections of the division:
GAAP Compliance Section
Produces the City’s Annual Financial Report (CAFR) in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) and in compliance with accounting standards set by the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB). The CAFR is the official financial report of the City of Los Angeles. In compiling the CAFR, the GAAP section converts non-GAAP budgetary basis (cash) financial data to a GAAP format (modified and full accrual) for financial statement presentation. The section provides GAAP conversion guidelines to all City Departments as well as training and guidance.
General Accounting Section
The General Accounting Section tracks, forecasts and reports on City receipts, cash flows, debt levels and the status of the Reserve Fund. The section prepares the Controller’s annual March 1 revenue forecast for the General Fund and the Preliminary Financial Report — the first official financial information available on the prior fiscal year — and performs the accounting function for the Municipal Improvement Corporation of Los Angeles.
Single Audit Section
The Single Audit Section produces the Single Audit in support of $426 million in grants awarded to the City each year, in compliance with the Federal Single Audit Act of 1984, the Single Audit Amendments of 1996 and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-133.
Cost Allocation Plan (CAP) Section
The Cost Allocation Plan Section produces the City’s federally-approved Cost Allocation Plan. The CAP shows how indirect costs — pensions and benefits, central services, and department administration and support — are allocated across City operations. The methodology and resulting rates are audited and approved by the federal government, and the rates are used to secure reimbursement for these indirect costs associated with grants and other federally funded programs. The reimbursements average about $20 million annually.
Check Reconciliation Section
This section reconciles all warrants issued against warrants paid, taking into account all adjustments. The Check Reconciliation Section protects the City by ensuring that the banks only honor the checks that are issued by the City and not fraudulent checks. This section is responsible for processing remakes of checks, issuance of duplicate and emergency checks and the processing of returned checks.
Financial Management System Section
The Financial Management System Section (FMS) is the City’s financial system of record and integrated to the business processes of virtually all aspects of the Controller’s office. FMS provides four major functions and a business intelligence tool for the City of Los Angeles.
The FMS group provides support, reporting, and troubleshooting for approximately 2,000 users, along with project management for FMS upgrades and enhancements.
Open Data Section
The Controller’s Open Data section develops, implements, supports and maintains ControlPanel LA, and collaborates with other City and proprietary departments to publish financial information related to audits and reports in a centralized location. ControlPanel LA promotes accessibility and transparency by allowing users to search, download and share City financial data and providing an interactive experience. It includes eCheckbook, visualizations, DWP Utility Panel, City departmental statistical and metrics, and other information.