Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is it time to audit the auditors?

If you’ve ever worked for a state agency, you are probably familiar with the state legislature’s Management Audit Committee. The Legislative Service Office (LSO) website describes the Committee’s purpose. “The Management Audit Committee (a statutorily created committee of 11 legislators) selects programs to be evaluated. The process culminates in a report that is presented to the Committee. Once the report is released, legislators, agencies, and officials can use the information to improve statutes, policies, and program operations.”

Whether the process actually works or is more of a “gotcha” is a subject for another day. But a recent news story reminds me of what someone once said tongue in cheek. The only stupid question is the one that is never asked, 'Don't you think it is about time you audited my return?' It may be just as silly to expect legislators who may have been “punked” to ask whether it is time to audit the auditors.

An Equality State Policy Center blog (http://equalitystatewatch.blogspot.com) reports attorneys representing Fremont County’s efforts to deny Native Americans their rights under the federal Voting Rights Act have now used a recent law passed by the Wyoming legislature to support their appeal of a federal court decision that went against them.

This happened despite repeated assurances by key state legislators the law would not be used in that manner. Those assurances heavily weighted the final vote of their colleagues and contributed significantly to the passage of the law. The ESPC blog says, “Somebody lied on the way to changing Wyoming law governing the creation of election districts for county commissioners.”

This case is serious and its implications for the integrity of the legislative process should not be underestimated. It cries for a public inquiry asking just how well are we represented by our legislators, to what extent are the system’s checks and balances compromised by special interests, are ethical breaches negatively influencing lawmaking, and are reforms necessary.

The legislature has been quite willing to audit others to determine whether they are acting appropriately and to assure expected results are being achieved. It will be interesting to see whether they have the same interest in an open and honest evaluation of themselves.

What do you suppose are the odds?

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