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First Things First: Audit was rigorous and beneficial

PHOENIX (August 29, 2016) – Arizona’s Auditor General has released an 83-page audit that describes First Things First as a high-performing organization while still identifying two specific findings and recommendations for improvement.

The audit was authorized by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee at the behest of the Senate President last fall and included everything from the organization’s revenues, spending, financial controls, grant-making processes and performance monitoring to First Things First’s methods for research and evaluation of programs, efforts to avoid duplication with other early childhood programs or initiatives, and the purpose of parent and public awareness strategies.

The audit – which was performed over 10 months and involved an audit team assigned full time to the organization – included no findings and no recommendations in five of the seven areas audited. The audit pointed to several areas of strength for the organization, highlighting that First Things First:

  • Has taken proactive steps to manage declining revenues and strategically plan for its future;
  • Spends the vast majority of funds on grants for early childhood development and health programs and effectively utilizes best practices in overseeing those grants;
  • Has appropriate financial controls in place;
  • Has implemented a research and evaluation plan informed by national experts to assess progress, as well as ongoing studies and reports that demonstrate the impact of programs; and
  • Fosters collaboration and coordination of early childhood programs, which helps ensure that duplicative or unnecessary services are not funded.

First Things First CEO Sam Leyvas noted the audit was an extremely rigorous process.

“I don’t think there was any part of the organization the audit didn’t scrutinize. We spent more than 2,500 staff hours in the audit’s research and investigative phases, and working with auditors on comparing our work to both legal requirements and best practices,” Leyvas said. “In the end, that level of rigor proved quite beneficial.”

He said First Things First agreed with the improvements recommended by the Auditor General, some of which already have been implemented. “As part of our commitment to continuous quality improvement, we embraced the audit as an opportunity to learn about areas where we could improve. We appreciate the OAG’s professionalism and diligence in completing a thorough assessment of First Things First,” Leyvas said. “We look forward to sharing our progress in implementing the Auditor General’s recommendations – as well as areas of strength identified in the audit report– with policymakers, community leaders, and other stakeholders.”

For more information, see the Auditor General’s report summary and First Things First’s response. Annual audits for fiscal years 2007 through 2015 are also available through FTF’s online Data Center.

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About First Things First – First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, please visit firstthingsfirst.org.

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