Don't shoot me, I'm just the auditor

Many of the audits of city government that Shirley Franklin promised during her election campaign began before she took over as Atlanta mayor this week. The question is whether those audits will give Franklin the right information to transform City Hall.

Auditors are notorious for giving their employers information that won't make their companies, or in this case, government, look bad. Witness Enron's recent below-the-radar belly up. And the reason audits usually neglect painful or troublesome facts is because the auditors want to keep their jobs.

Thankfully, it doesn't matter what the auditors find in Atlanta's case, because it will only reflect on the Campbell administration, and really, how much worse can that group look?

One senior level bureaucrat down at City Hall says there is a new sense of optimism now that Franklin is taking charge, and that's a huge change given how low morale had sunk during the repressive Campbell administration. But the questions one of the auditors asked the bureaucrat made her skeptical about whether they would be able to give Franklin valuable information to change the way the city is run.

"They were totally unfamiliar with government, especially Atlanta's," says the city official. "They were 10 steps removed from reality."

The guy doing the interviewing was "very nice," but his questions, such as "What would you do to make a creative change in government?" are not going to provide the kind of no-nonsense data Franklin will need.

Kasim Reed, one of the heads of Franklin's transition team, points out that the companies doing the work for Franklin — Bain & Co. and Deloitte & Touche, for example — are top-notch, well-respected auditors. That may be true, but one must hope the questions get better as the audit process moves on or they will be a hollow exercise with unhelpful answers.??

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