JEFFERSON CITY — The Special Committee on Government Oversight held a hearing for a bill that would require regular performance audits of all state departments Wednesday morning.
Sponsored by Rep. Louis Riggs, R-Hannibal, House Bill 583 would write into law that the state of Missouri would hire an independent auditor to conduct performance audits every four years on each of the state departments, the legislature, the judiciary and departments and offices under the executive branch.
Riggs’ reasoning for the introduction of this bill is that current operations are outdated.
“Missouri last overhauled the way we operate as a state in 1974. We all know that since 1974, everything has changed, except the way we operate as a state” Riggs said.
Riggs said that these audits “will enable Missouri to examine every facet of what we do, how we do it and whether or not we can do it better [and] save taxpayer dollars by doing so [and] improve the delivery of government services.”
Riggs said the bill models itself after the programs that states like Ohio, Tennessee and Utah have created. According to Riggs, Ohio “has identified more than $1 billion in savings since its inception in 2011.”
The bill states that these audits would be completed by independent auditors that would bid on the ability to conduct them.
Rep. Bill Falkner, R-St. Joseph, pointed out that the bill lacks stipulations regarding how the bid would be selected, “whether it‘s lowest bid, best bid or something along those lines.”
Riggs said “typically that would be [the] lowest bid, and honestly the folks who do this, there aren’t a whole lot of them out there, so you wouldn’t be receiving that many bids to begin with.”
In regard to cost, conducting the audits “in house” would be in the “$1.8 million range, [which] would be about twice what it would be in the private sector,” he said.
Along with the cost benefit of going into the private sector, Rep. J. Eggleston, R-Maysville, pointed out the possible “political implication that, as years go on, you know we all kind of know each other, maybe the state auditor is buddy-buddy with the whatever secretary of state or treasurer whatever office that they are auditing. And so there might be some impropriety or… the appearance of impropriety.”
After some discussion, Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City, asked “What happens if nobody does it? Would somebody have to sue to force this to happen if it didn’t happen on its own?”
“I’m not sure I understand the question,” Riggs said.
“It says we shall do this every four years, but if nobody initiates it, I don’t see any remedy. Like, would some watchdog group sue the state and force the state to start this process if the state doesn’t do it?”
“That’s an interesting question,” Riggs paused for a moment. “It’s a mandate. ‘Shall be conducted.’ There’s no discretionary language to it.”
“Yeah, no, I hear you,” Rogers said. “I’m just saying what if [the governor] just doesn’t do it? Then there has to be some remedy. Somebody would have to force them to do the mandate. I’m just curious how that would work.”