Audit panel targets repeat offenders -- Gazette.Net


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State agencies that have repeat audit findings might see their administrative funding cut by legislators.

The legislature’s Joint Audit Committee reached a consensus Wednesday to recommend that the House and Senate budget committees consider cutting funds to the administration budgets as a way to force agencies to resolve problems found by legislative auditors.

The audit committee said too many follow-up audits showed that problems identified in initial audits hadn’t been corrected.

The audits, performed by the Office of Legislative Audits, examine agencies to review their practices and to make any recommendations to improve service or to provide better oversight. In the past three months alone, the auditors had issued 23 reports, said Thomas J. Barnickel III, acting legislative auditor. Of those, four were referred to the legislative audit committee for attention because of repeat findings.

A report released earlier this year said that about 25 percent of audit findings are repeated in the next audit report.

Cutting the administrative budgets would put teeth in the audit findings without hurting the programs for citizens, said Del. Guy Guzzone (D-Dist. 13) of Columbia, the House chairman of the Joint Audit Committee.

Under the Joint Audit Committee recommendation, the Department of Legislative Services would inform the budget committees of repeat audit findings in their budget analysis reports and would suggest how much should be cut from the agency’s administrative funding based on the number of repeat findings and their severity, Guzzone said.

The budget committees would make the final determination on whether to cut the funding and by how much, he said.

In October, the audit committee discussed several ideas, including one sponsored in a House bill in the 2012 regular legislative session by Del. Gail H. Bates (R-Dist. 9A) of West Friendship to cut an agency’s budget by 5 percent if it had repeat audit findings.

But other legislators said that could end up hurting people served by the agencies and also make it more difficult for agencies to fix existing problems. Bates’ bill did not make it out of committee.

The audit committee’s recommendation will not need legislation to be enacted, but can simply be set as policy by the Department of Legislative Services and the budget committees, Guzzone said.

cford@gazette.net