Audit bill increases government oversight

HB 2440 Enables Legislature to Conduct Performance, Management Audits
By Oregon House Republicans,

SALEM””House Republicans today presented HB 2440 to create a Legislative Audits Office within the Oregon Legislature to conduct performance and management audits of state agencies and other state-funded programs. The bill, heard today in the House Administration Committee, would increase accountability and legislative oversight of state government.”A new legislative audits office can help us establish measurable outcomes and goals, can help us make government work better and smarter, can help us be better watchdogs of the taxpayer’s money,” said Rep. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer), the bill’s chief sponsor. “In addition to rooting out any potential problems, we can also look for programs that are working and try to duplicate those systems.”

HB 2440 creates the Legislative Audits Office as a new function of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. In addition to conducting management and performance audits, the office would be responsible for managing the Government Waste Hotline to investigate complaints about government waste and abuse.

Oregon currently gives the Secretary of State’s Office the exclusive authority to audit state agencies. However, because the office is a part of the executive branch, House Republicans say the current system is incapable of producing independent analysis and data the Legislature can use to hold state agencies accountable.

“The Legislature is charged with writing budgets for tens of billions of dollars, yet we have no auditing authority over how those budgets are implemented,” said House Republican Leader Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg). “To leave all auditing authority to the very branch of government on which audits are supposed to be conducted doesn’t make sense.”

Rep. Thatcher said HB 2440 would enable Oregon to join all other states that have given their legislatures the ability to directly audit state agencies. She said a Legislative Audits Office would enable the Legislature to proactively root out fraud and abuse before they’re exposed in the media.

“Oregon appears to be the only state without some kind of auditing office in the legislative branch,” Rep. Thatcher said. “The concept of an audits office is not new, but it has gained in importance as the state budget becomes more complex and we discover more and more instances where this kind of auditing function would have been helpful.”

HB 2440 does not create a new agency or require new state employees because the bill would transfer a portion of staff from the Secretary of State’s Audits Division to the Legislative Audits Office. After today’s hearing, the bill is pending further action by the House Administration Committee.

Restructuring Oregon’s auditing process, allowing the legislature to better monitor the spending and performance is a key part of Building a Better Oregon, the House Republicans’ 2009 agenda.