Bill Would Establish an Audit Department Tasked With Reviewing Government Agencies and Programs


Yesterday state Auditor Josh Gallion dropped a surprising report detailing money locked away in special funds by state agencies which continue to get general fund appropriation, with the recommendation that the legislature review these funds and consider putting some limits on these accumulations.

I say it was a surprising report, because it’s not the sort of thing we’re used to seeing from the Auditor’s office. While I’ve heard some griping from politicos about Gallion being an attention seeker or a sensationalist, he should be applauded for his initiative. That report is exactly what our state Auditors should be doing.

In fact, we have legislation in Bismarck today which seeks to institutionalize that initiative in the Auditor’s  office. HB1491, introduced by Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck), would create a division in the auditor’s office dedicated to reviewing government entities and programs, including federal programs.

For federal programs, the legislation charges auditors with reviewing whether they’re conducting “authorized activities or programs in a manner consistent with accomplishing the objectives set forth by law” and using “funds in a faithful, efficient, economical, and effective manner and the extent to which the federal funds impose conditional requirements on the state.”

For state programs and entities, auditors would “consider the entity’s efficiency, effectiveness, role in protecting consumers, sufficiency of resources, accomplishment of legislative objectives, and other areas as determined by the state auditor.”

Audits would be initiated by the elected Auditor, of course, but also by the Legislature.

We don’t do nearly enough of this sort of thing in government. Lawmakers are very good at initiating new programs. Founding new departments. Creating boards and commissions and committees. What they’re not so good at is going back and ensuring that those initiatives are working, and making good use of taxpayer resources.

Josh Gallion, so far, is a very good Auditor. He’s proven to be aggressive, and unafraid of the political repercussions associated with asking hard questions. I mean, the dude audited the travel and security expenses of Governor and fellow Republican Doug Burgum.

He gets it, and if we can institutionalize some of Gallion’s attitude in his office, that would be to the good.

Here’s the full bill:

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