Performance audits: Let Oklahomans vote!

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The Oklahoma Legislature is considering a constitutional amendment that would give the State Auditor and Inspector the power to initiate and conduct performance audits of state agencies. If approved by the legislature, the amendment will come before voters for final approval in November. It's a good idea, and legislators should send it to Oklahoma voters. If you agree, you need to contact your legislator today -- action is required by Thursday to keep the proposal alive.

While regular audits evaluate compliance with existing procedures, rules, and laws, performance audits look at whether an agency's processes are effective and efficient.

The legislation is authored by government modernization guru State Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie), who calls the legislation "one of the most important components of this year's House government modernization effort." (Murphey's work on behalf of online and open government is highlighted in my Government 2.0 story in the current issue of This Land.)

It is important for the proposal to be approved as a constitutional amendment to ensure the performance audits remain free from political interference (legislators can not amend the Constitution). Thorough performance audits may make many politicians very uncomfortable as they will tend to shine the light of day on the failure of state government to perform efficiently. I also suspect they will reveal a large number of state government processes that are highly vulnerable to corruption.

Currently, the Auditor can conduct these audits at the request of the Governor, the Legislature, or the head of an agency. As you might image, it is highly unlikely agency officials from a poorly performing agency would ever request the Auditor to audit their agency.

Murphey says that, not only would the audits directly identify waste and inefficiencies, saving taxpayers much more than the cost of the audits, but they would generate indirect savings by inspiring agency heads to make improvements in advance of an audit.

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Performance audits would help Kazakhstan government, too.

The proposal also provides for a dedicated funding mechanism, which also works to ensure the auditor's independence from the good will of agencies and officials he seeks to audit. No one can threaten to withhold his funding.

As you might imagine, there is resistance, and it's coming from those with the most immediate and direct access to legislators' ears.

Duncan blogger and columnist Steve Fair notes:

Giving Jones the authority and the money to do performance audits is not without some opposition. Critics of HJR1075 correctly point out the proposal would expand the powers of the State Auditor's office. While that is true, isn't identifying and eliminating government waste what most taxpayers want from their elected officials, especially the State Auditor?

Fair predicts the amendment would pass by a 3 to 1 margin at the ballot box. "Taxpayers, regardless of party affiliation, want to know how their tax money is being spent." Fair writes:

What could possibly be a valid reason for a state legislator to oppose HJR1075? That is a good question and one I would urge you to ask your legislator. Passage of HJR1075 simply lets the voters decide the issue of accountability in government expenditures. If it is such a bad idea, then it should be soundly defeated. Legislators should not be trying to protect ourselves from ourselves. They should let the process play out in the arena of public ideas. Oklahoma voters get it right an overwhelming majority of the time.

Visit Oklahoma's "Find My Legislator" page to find out who represents you and how to get in touch on this issue.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 14, 2012 8:44 AM.

Saving East Germany's near ruins -- and Tulsa's? was the previous entry in this blog.

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