Monday, May 18, 2009

State Auditor Sonntag plays hardball over "dumb" cut to performance audits

In their desperation to save money the Legislature made a cut that will result in more spending, not less. State Auditor Brian Sonntag has made some real hits (baseball analogy) with his performance audits. He is hurting our elected officials' ability to protect their favorite programs and hire each other's kids. He is using objective measures and informed judgment. They just had to do something! Seattle Times Newspaper:
State Auditor Brian Sonntag is a serious baseball fan. He's a regular at Mariners games and has a rack stuffed with 20 wooden bats in his office. An inscribed ceramic ball on his desk reads: "Sometimes you just have to play hardball." Hardball is what the 57-year-old Democrat seems to have in mind when it comes to fighting the Legislature's $29 million cut to his performance-audit program, which seeks to find efficiencies in state and local governments. He's asked Gov. Chris Gregoire to restore at least some of the money, saying the cut "decimates" a program that's found millions in potential savings. Gregoire is expected to decide by Tuesday. Sonntag has publicly described the money grab as a "sucker punch" and has thrown around words like "stupid," "dumb," "ridiculous" and "unacceptable" when talking about the plan. That's not how politicians typically describe the work of other elected officials, especially members of their party who control the purse strings. Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, said Sonntag is blowing the impact of the cut out of proportion. Her advice to him: "Cool it." ... Sonntag's office said it's working on a report that will show how much money the audits have saved. It's not available yet, but the office points to an audit of the state Department of Labor and Industries as an example. The audit recommended ways to improve the agency's collection of benefit overpayments. As a result, the department had a 50 percent increase in collections, worth $4.6 million in 2007, according to the auditor's office and Labor and Industries. Overall, Sonntag's office has received high marks for several performance audits, including a 2007 review of the Port of Seattle that said its contracting practices were lax and ripe for fraud and abuse. The audit prompted a federal investigation and a Port-funded probe that identified 10 cases of fraud. A series of audits of the state Department of Transportation, however, received mixed reviews. ...
If you agree with distinguished Senator Prentice then sit on your hands. If you agree with Sonntag then call Chris Gregoire. See also Save Perfornance Audits - Evergreen Freedom Foundation - Olympian "Give the money back to audit program" At one of those sources I saw the email addresses of Chris Gregoire's senior staff members in a comment; don't recall which.

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