Mo. auditor wants to review large state agencies

Missouri auditor Tom Schweich said Wednesday that he wants to compare the practices of several state agencies to find ways to make them more efficient.

Schweich, a Republican, said he wants to review criteria such as overtime policies, travel spending, worker pay and the use of contractors at five to 10 agencies that receive the largest amounts of state appropriations.

The auditor said statutes governing the auditor’s office do not specifically say it can do a comparative audit of multiple agencies. He is supporting legislation filed Wednesday by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, requiring a comparative audit of state agencies’ best practices to be completed by August 2013.

Schweich said the audit would require a one-time appropriation of about $300,000, but “we hope that this can save the state literally millions of dollars.”

Schaefer, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said there likely are many disparities in what different agencies spend on the same functions. But he said agencies don’t communicate those savings to one another very often and lawmakers aren’t able to see those differences when they read separate audit reports for each agency.

“We kind of look at them in a vacuum,” Schaefer said of the current audit process, “You really don’t have anything to compare that to. By actually taking this approach, you’re not looking at apples and oranges, you’re looking at apples and apples.”

Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said the legislation ties in with the goals of Senate committees aimed at scaling back the size and cost of state government.

Schweich said he had met with Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday to discuss the audit and said Nixon was supportive of the idea.

“I wanted this to be a bipartisan effort,” he said. “I think everyone sees the value in best practices.”

The state agencies receiving the largest state allotments of money include the Department of Social Services, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Higher Education, the Office of Administration, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Revenue and the Department of Economic Development.

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