Holidays Don’t Slow State’s Chief Watchdogs

Most of us spend the weeks before Christmas putting the finishing touches on our holiday celebrations. But, just like Santa’s elves, staff at the Legislative Audit Bureau was busily working to put the finishing preparations on new audit reports.

The holidays don’t slow the state auditors of the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) who serve as the state’s chief watchdogs.

Auditors in both the financial and program evaluation departments work overtime to complete audits that help legislators and the people of the state understand state finance and programs.

We often ask the question, “How well is the program working?” But far too often we can’t find the answers. Agencies frequently don’t take the time or spend the money to collect data on the effectiveness of programs.

So data is limited; questions go unanswered. Year after year, Republican or Democratic administrations spend state money on programs that are not working as well as they should.

For example, easily accessible data was not available on mental illness and addictions among prisoners. The court orders treatment in prison upon sentencing a prisoner; but many prisoners are released without receiving adequate court-ordered treatment.

A report by the audit bureau helped us understand the extent of the problem of addiction and mental illness among prisoners.

New reports about retired state workers being rehired and the year-end financial audit shine light on practices that may affect the state’s pension system and fiscal health of the state.

Other reports dig deep into troubled state programs including the state’s economic development efforts and the former food stamp program known as “Food Share.”

Recent hearings also brought to light progress made and new efforts needed in the state’s Medicaid and Family Care programs which were both subjects of earlier audits.

As a long-time member of the Joint Committee on Audit, I recognize the quality of work done by our audit bureau staff.  As Co-Chair this year I was pleased to acknowledge the bureau staff for their latest achievement.

The National State Auditors Association recently recognized the staff in our Legislative Audit Bureau as among the best in the nation.

The team of outside reviewers, composed of government auditing professionals from other states and the federal government, reviewed selected financial audits and found the work of the LAB financial auditors merited a “clean opinion” for its system of quality control. In the language of auditors this is high praise.

This recognition proves the work of the Audit Bureau can be trusted to provide the nonpartisan financial and program evaluation we need to make difficult policy and budget decisions.

The Audit Bureau has a long history of excellence. The bureau was created in 1965 and has won many national awards. The Audit Bureau works every day to provide the Legislature with information and assurance that financial transactions and management decisions are made effectively, efficiently, and in compliance with state law.

Every report and the follow-up made in response to the report are available on the Bureau’s website at http://www.legis.wisconsin.gov/lab.

Auditors also operate a hotline to report fraud, waste and abuse in state government. Anyone can use the hotline. State employees who use the hotline are protected by one of the strongest “whistle-blower” laws in state government. The number to call is 1-877-FRAUD-17 or 1-877-372-8317.

The work of the professionals at the Audit Bureau provides us with expert, accurate and objective analysis. The information aids us as we make critical decisions about the functioning and funding of state government.

I send many thanks to the staff at the Audit Bureau and all our other workers who toil in the public’s interest.

As you prepare for this joyous season, rest assured the auditors of the Legislative Audit Bureau will be hard at work as the watchdogs of state government.

Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year to all!

Senator Vinehout will be stepping down as Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Audit at the end of this year because of the change in party control. She will continue her work in overseeing the efforts of the Legislative Audit Bureau as Ranking Minority Member of the Committee.