Our Opinion: Audit invites partisan attack

A warning label — similar to those found on coffee makers and vehicle visors — ought to be affixed to state audits.

It would read: “Avoid the appearance of politics at all costs.”

That warning was not heeded by the state auditor’s office, headed by Republican Tom Schweich, in an audit of travel by fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.

The most glaring omission in the audit was the lack of recommendations to improve inconsistencies between Kinder’s electronic and printed calendars.

Schweich, also a personal and financial supporter of Kinder, appropriately recused himself from the audit and assigned the task to Harry Otto, a deputy.

Concerning the lack of recommendations, Otto said: “It wasn’t determined that it was necessary to make that recommendation. In a perfect world, we would have several calendars to look at. We would have a political calendar and a state business calendar.”

Although it may not be a perfect world, the state’s existing travel policy is both clear and detailed. It reads: “You should include explanations and documentation to fully substantiate travel expenses. ... In other words, an individual who did not take or approve the trip could review the trip documentation and readily understand what expenses were incurred and why and how they relate to transacting business.”

That policy, incidentally, was established in January 2008, when Republican Matt Blunt served as governor and Kinder as lieutenant governor.

The audit almost immediately prompted two reactions.

Kinder reimbursed the state an additional $1,888.63, which his spokesman called “the amount they (auditors) identified was necessary to have fully paid for all in-state lodging even though such payment is not legally required.”

And the Missouri Democratic Party launched an attack that read: “As details about the state audit of Kinder continue to emerge, more questions arise about the veracity and integrity of the review conducted by Kinder’s political allies.”

Although the Democratic broadside was inevitable, the state audit, by its omission, opened Republicans to a more direct hit.

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