Through its work, the Office of the State Auditor routinely challenges state agencies to modernize their operations to better serve the residents of the Commonwealth. State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump has brought forward legislation, titled An Act Improving Government Accountability (H.6), that applies this same standard to her own office.
The measure will make important updates to modernize her office's enabling statute to reflect the nature, tools, and technology of its work. It also will allow the office to more effectively conduct its work and focus its expertise in the areas of government at greatest risk of waste, fraud, and abuse. Finally, it creates mechanisms to hold auditees accountable for addressing problems identified in audits.
From the tools used to the scope of the work, the Office of the State Auditor has changed dramatically since David Wilder Jr. became the first Massachusetts State Auditor in 1849. An Act Improving Government Accountability not only recognizes these changes but also works to put the office on the cutting-edge of government accountability.
The bill recognizes that, unlike in 1849, the role of State Auditor is no longer exclusively the terrain of men. It makes the enabling statute for the Office of the State Auditor gender neutral.
Since the information needed to conduct audits is increasingly stored in electronic databases and information warehouses, rather than filing cabinets, the measure will ensure all information, whether physical or electronic, is accessible in its native format.
This bill will allow the Office of the State Auditor to conduct its audits, reports, and investigations more effectively.
One of the most frequent causes of delay for audits is the slow response to requests for information and data needed to complete audits. To reduce the amount of time auditors spends waiting for these materials, the measure will require that auditees provide requested information within ten business days, the same standard set by the Commonwealth's public records law.
Not all government agencies are created the same. Agencies with small budgets and straightforward responsibilities are at a lower risk of waste, fraud, or abuse than programs with large budgets and complex responsibilities. This measure will allow the Office of the State Auditor to focus its efforts and expertise on those agencies and programs that present the greatest risk to taxpayers. It will move the agency more toward a risk-based approach to auditing, while still requiring it to audit every state agency at least once every five years.
This measure will allow the Office of the State Auditor to focus its efforts and expertise on those agencies and programs that present the greatest risk to taxpayers.
Additionally, this bill will allow the Office of the State Auditor's Division of Local Mandates to be more proactive in its work by enabling it to request from state agencies information regarding the financial effects of new laws or regulations on municipal governments and to provide recommendations to reduce negative impacts. It will ensure that potential unfunded mandates are addressed before they begin to impact local governments.
The primary goal of the work of the Office of the State Auditor is to make government work better. Each audit provides recommendations to address the problems it has identified, however, there is currently no mechanism to ensure auditees take needed action.
This bill will hold auditees accountable for fixing identified problems.
This bill will hold auditees accountable for fixing identified problems. It will require, at the discretion of the State Auditor, auditees to develop a plan to correct deficiencies identified in audits and provide periodic reports on their progress in implementing the plan. Agencies will be required to provide copies of these plans, as well as their progress reports, to the State Auditor, Governor, and legislative leadership and appropriate committees.