Dana Point, Calif. (March 22, 2018) — A report issued Thursday by the California State Auditor supported South Orange County Wastewater Authority’s (SOCWA) efforts to modernize its financial management. The report – titled in part SOCWA “Should Continue to Improve“ its financial practices – followed an exhaustive seven-month review of the Dana Point-based agency’s financial practices, governance structure and other matters.
“We fundamentally agree with the State Auditor’s characterization of our past as well as our current efforts to ensure strong, transparent and accountable financial management,” said Dan Ferons, Chairman of SOCWA’s Board of Directors. “Since 2014, we have worked hard to transform financial systems within SOCWA. We appreciate the State Auditor’s encouragement and support to continue on our current path.”
Prior to the audit, SOCWA had faced unsubstantiated claims of missing money and financial mismanagement. These allegations were debunked in the State Auditor’s report, which labeled SOCWA’s practices “sound,” “reasonable,” and “sufficient.”
“We are a local government accountable to our member agencies and their ratepayers,” continued Ferons. “The State Auditor’s report now gives the public assurances that SOCWA is on the path to strong financial management.”
The report also outlined four ideas to help SOCWA build upon recent successes. The process-oriented recommendations include: ensure written policies to guide public information requests; consider amendments to governing documents to assign pension responsibility if SOCWA were to ever dissolve; create written guidelines for financial reporting and accountant selection process. SOCWA anticipates implementing all recommendations promptly.
The State Audit came at the request of Senator Pat Bates and Assemblyman Bill Brough. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee, a bi-partisan group of State Assembly members and Senators approved the audit in June 2017. The review was expected to cost the State about $260,000.
“We are grateful to Senator Bates, Assemblyman Brough and State Auditor Elaine Howle for their leadership,” stated Betty Burnett, SOCWA’s General Manager. “Having the State referee this matter helped bring it to a constructive conclusion. We now look forward to returning our full attention to our core mission – creating recycled water supplies, treating wastewater and protecting public health and the environment.”
SOCWA is South Orange County’s primary wastewater treatment and recycled water provider. It treats upwards of 7 billion gallons of wastewater each year and produces about 40 percent of the region’s recycled water. It also operates two ocean outfalls and is responsible for ocean water quality in the region. It is governed by representatives from its ten member agencies, which include: Santa Margarita Water District, Irvine Ranch Water District, Moulton Niguel Water District, El Toro Water District, South Coast Water District, Trabuco Canyon Water District, Emerald Bay Service District, and the cities of Laguna Beach, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente.