Audits are one of the primary vehicles the Amtrak Office of Inspector General uses to provide objective, evidence-based, and relevant assessments of the stewardship, performance, and cost of Amtrak programs and operations. The company uses findings and recommendations from our audits as a basis for improving company programs, policies, procedures, and priorities to help make its operations more efficient, effective, and economical. Additionally, our audits can be used to inform the decision making of Amtrak’s Board of Directors, Amtrak management, and members of Congress.
We develop our annual audit plan using input from multiple sources. We consider the results of our ongoing and prior audit work, our assessment of the company’s management challenges, congressional interests, and the company’s own assessment of risks and challenges. We use the information collected to inform discussions with Amtrak’s Board of Directors, senior company executives, and Federal Railroad Administration officials about proposed audits that could help the company achieve its strategic objectives. During the entire process we remain committed to maintaining our independence and objectivity as we work to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and economy of the company’s programs and operations.
To ensure that our audits are independent, fair, objective, evidence-based, and relevant, we adhere to the Government Auditing Standards provided by the Government Accountability Office. Additionally, our Office of Audits undergoes a peer review from an outside audit agency every three years. This review is designed to ensure our team has the appropriate quality control mechanisms in place that assures conformance with applicable professional standards.
The Audit Process
We publicly announce the initiation of our audits via an engagement memorandum. This memo is sent to senior Amtrak executives, and it provides a general outline of our audit objectives and proposed audit scope and methodology. We follow up with a meeting with company stakeholders to discuss the topic under review and to ensure that the audit’s objectives, scope, and methodology, are understood.
After these preliminary steps, our team moves on to field work. This stage consists of gathering and assessing company documents and data, interviewing Amtrak staff, conducting focus groups or deploying surveys, and inspecting facilities. The Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, grants OIG employees unfettered access to company property and timely access to all of Amtrak’s records, reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations, or other available material. Additionally, Amtrak Policy 2.1.3, which codifies OIG/Amtrak relationships, reiterates these requirements.
The field work phase culminates with an analysis of the information gathered and the formation of preliminary findings and recommendations. This information is used to highlight positive aspects of the program as well as any program risks or weaknesses in program management, internal controls, safety and security, or program and contract performance. Audit recommendations identify corrective actions to address these weaknesses. Our team then meets with company stakeholders to review our preliminary findings and recommendations.
Company perspectives are incorporated into a formal draft audit report, which is provided to Amtrak management for an official comment period that generally lasts 30 days. Amtrak management provides a written response, which is included in the final report. The final report is provided to Amtrak’s Board of Directors, Amtrak management, and relevant congressional committees and is posted on our website and Oversight.gov.
Our office then tracks Amtrak’s implementation of the recommendations made in the report.