As the state auditor and inspector's office has worked to process a backlog of county government audits, the agency has uncovered “definite issues” and in some instances the misuse of taxpayer dollars, its elected head said.
“There were definite issues,” state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said. “They were operating under the ‘we've always done it that way' attitude … we put those findings in our report. Before, it was kind of a wink and a nod; we may put it in there, we may not.”
Jones said that when he took office in January 2011, there were 25 counties in compliance with a state law requiring his office to audit each county every two years. Wednesday, almost exactly two years into Jones' four-year term, he said the backlog is clearing.
He said 67 counties are now in compliance, and by the end of fiscal year 2013, all 77 Oklahoma counties will be in compliance.
“We're very proud of where we have come in the last two years,” Jones said. “It didn't seem like they had any respect for what we do, and that has changed.”
The audits in some counties have uncovered issues that have required further investigation and may result in criminal charges.
In Craig and Grant counties, special investigative audits examined funds established for inmates that are managed by each county's sheriff's department, said Cindy Perry, director of county audits for the department.
In Craig County, the audit was completed in October and found among other things that funds intended for the inmates' medical bills were not properly deposited. About $36,000 was unaccounted for in the fund.
The Grant County special audit is ongoing.
While the county audits are moving smoothly now, Jones said his agency still struggles with performance audits of state agencies and other entities.
“It may be feast or famine. There may be a huge request of audits coming in, and then they just stop,” he said.
Jones said he thinks the law gives his office the authority to initiate a performance audit, but changes to the law in 2003 muddied the water, and the office has only been doing performance audits when requested by the governor or legislative leaders.
Jones hopes the law can be changed this session to allow his office to schedule and initiate performance audits.
Performance audits currently are under way involving the Emergency Medical Services Authority, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and the city of Oklahoma City.