The Office of Legislative Auditor General can take a deep and well-deserved bow. So can the Utah Foundation.
The legislative auditor scored a couple of major coups in recent months. The first came when this office exposed the scandal in which top administrators have been charged with stealing $3.5 million in public funds at the Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center. The second involves the exposure of a long list of mismanagement problems that led to the resignation of the executive director, the reassignment of the deputy director, and the suspension of the administrative services director at the Utah Retirement Office.There's room for wondering if these serious scandals would ever have come to light had it not been for the expert digging of the legislative auditor.
Likewise, there's room for wondering if this state would have acquired a legislative auditor if the Utah Foundation had not campaigned more than 25 years for the creation of this office, which was finally accomplished in 1975.
Now another campaign should be considered - a campaign to beef up the staff of the Office of Legislative Auditor General so it can conduct audits more frequently.
Even if some of the restrictions on the elected state auditor were removed, there's still no substitute for the legislative auditor. That's because it's easier for an officer in the legislative branch of government to check on the work of executive branch operations than it is for an auditor in the executive branch, particularly when the auditor belongs to the same political party as some of the officials on which his office must check.
The key role of the legislative auditor is to conduct performance audits of state offices and agencies to determine whether the Legislature's intent is being followed in the conduct of state business and the expenditure of appropriated funds.
With state government becoming bigger and more complex, the potential for abuse grows, too. As this trend continues, the Legislature should make sure the legislative auditor has the personnel needed to keep pace.