Washington state auditor: More accountability audits needed for state agencies

Auditor’s office seeking $700,000 from Washington Legislature

Washington state Auditor Pat McCarthy visited the Eastside last Thursday during her “world tour” across the state.

Since she was elected in November 2016, McCarthy has made a concerted effort to connect with various editorial boards, teams, districts, commissions and more. In fact, the Office of Washington State Auditor has 14 offices outside of Olympia with 400 employees. She’s visited 11 editorial boards and at least 20 teams.

And by the end of the year, 2,400 audits will have been completed by the auditor’s office with special attention on cyber security and performance audits.

However, what’s needed is more money for accountability audits. That’s exactly what the auditor’s office hopes to take on if the Washington state Legislature approves their $700,000 ask made in early November.

Since the Great Recession, funding for accountability audits has reduced dramatically. This has resulted in more than 50 state agencies getting by without having this particular audit for four years. That’s not to say they haven’t been audited – they have had performance audits. But accountability audits hold government agencies to a higher standard.

With a “deeper than balance sheets” approach, “accountability audits send auditors into the field, interviewing clients and shining a brighter light for the taxpayers,” according to Audit Connection WA, a blog of the auditor’s office.

The $700,000 a year will pay for 8,000 hours and is being proposed for the supplemental 2017-19 biennium budget.

In the request, McCarthy points out funding for accountability audits has been reduced by more than 30 percent. In 1999-2000, state funding exceeded $8.5 million. It dipped to a low in 2011-13 with only $1.1 million but has only risen to $2.7 million in recent years.

“This decision package will restore some of those critical resources, allowing auditors to examine the books of small state agencies that the office has not audited in some time, as well as more deeply review the use of public resources at large state agencies,” McCarthy’s request states.

The funding would provide accountability audits to small agencies, such as the Traffic Safety Commission; and technical colleges, such as Renton Tech, Yakima Valley, Cascadia and Bellingham Tech, she added.

McCarthy said she wasn’t sure if the focus would shift to all of the 50-plus agencies or on to one large one, such as Medicaid, but she does know not funding the request will increase the risk of misused and fraudulent spending of taxpayer dollars.

“Regular audit cycles are critical to ensure funding is accounted for appropriately,” she wrote. “Audits shed light on potential health and safety concerns.”

For more information, visit auditconnectionwa.org.

The Washington State Legislature will meet again in January 2018.

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