Over the past several months, it has been revealed that several state agencies have misspent, mismanaged, and misreported taxpayer funds, and failed to follow state and federal law in other ways.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson has made calling for performance audits of state agencies a key plank of his campaign platform, including going back to his 2002 gubernatorial run. More than any other candidate this cycle, Richardson has made spending accountability and transparency a top issue.
Richardson is right.
A common refrain heard from agency and department heads is that they have already "cut to the bone", and that there is no more superfluous spending left to eliminate. That was heard before it was revealed that...
- ... the Oklahoma Department of Health mismanaged $30M over the past several years, resulting in a funding crisis last month
- ... the Department of Tourism illegally modified short-barreled shotguns and had employees that routinely fudged on their timecards
- ... and that the Department of Agriculture is in a dispute with the federal government over failing to pay about $1M in invoices
Performance audits into other agencies may well discover similar issues. I wrote recently how some agencies have spent thousands of dollars on social media advertising, and encouraged citizens and state workers to help expose waste and unnecessary spending in state government. Following that, three state representatives invited whistleblowers among state employee and vendors to email them with tips, and the House Investigative Committee established a special whistleblower hotline.
The most effective way to expose waste and illegalities in state agencies is, as Richardson rightly points out, to conduct regular performance audits. The spending of taxpayer money should be tightly controlled, and every penny should be spent as frugally as possible and for the purpose intended. As recent revelations have shown, in the darkness that the lack of thorough oversight brings, that is not happening.
In a recent press release, Richardson pledged "As Governor, I would start at the top and mandate audits on the 12 state agencies with budgets of more than $50 million. And I will push for new legislation requiring audits of every single state agency, trust and authority every four years."
The upcoming Republican primary in the gubernatorial race will certainly be interesting. There are several candidates deserving of attention and consideration (others, less so). Richardson is taking a lead role on drawing attention to this important issue, while others have been relatively silent.
On the issue of performance audits and agency accountability, Gary Richardson is right.