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Learn more about state government audits

Audits provide accountability to state agencies and recommendations that make government work better for the residents of the Commonwealth. Learn how the Office of the State Auditor conducts audits, and how those audits improve government performance.

For most people, the thought of an audit produces anxiety and images of individuals digging through paperwork, looking for errors. However, State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump sees audits differently. For her, audits are a powerful tool to improve how state government serves the residents of the Commonwealth. Audits provide an opportunity to assess if a state government agency or contractor is meeting its responsibilities, and suggest ways that it can embrace technology and innovation to more effectively do its job.

What is an audit?

Audits are reports that give Massachusetts residents and policymakers an unbiased assessment of how well state government is working and make recommendations about how agencies and contractors can better serve residents of the Commonwealth. They can look at entire state entities, or specific activities or programs at an agency. Among other things, audits can look at whether:

  • A program is achieving its intended results;
  • Tax dollars are used properly and efficiently and state property is safeguarded by state agencies;
  • State government IT systems are secure, reliable, and protected from unauthorized access;
  • An agency is following relevant laws and regulations; and
  • State government contractors are effectively providing services.

The Office of the State Auditor (OSA) looks at the areas of an entity that it determines are at the greatest risk of waste, loss, or abuse. It uses data analytics, consumer complaints, news reports, prior audit findings, and other factors to determine what areas are at the greatest risk In general, the OSA is required by law to audit every state entity every three years.

Audit frequency

In general, the OSA is required by law to audit almost every state entity every three years. However, some entities, such as MassHealth, which are extremely large or complex and are at a greater risk of waste, loss, or abuse, are audited more frequently.

In addition, as necessary, the OSA can audit contractors or providers who receive money from the state government to provide services to the residents of the Commonwealth.

Audits make government work better

Audits not only identify when a state government entity or contractor is not meeting its responsibilities, they also provide recommendations for improvement. These recommendations provide guidance on how to better protect money or resources, more effectively deliver services, or improve transparency and accountability. Auditees report implementing more than 90 percent of these recommendations.

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