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Bill would clarify audit costs, auditor's powers

Bill would clarify audit costs, auditor's powers

May 2nd, 2013 in News

A House-passed bill would make it clear that four Mid-Missouri counties (and 14 others around the state) would have to pay the state auditor if that agency does an "outside" audit of the county's business.

"This bill deals with first- and second-class counties," Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, told the Senate's Jobs, Economic Development and Local Governments Committee Wednesday afternoon.

"Currently, those counties elect a county auditor to do their audits but, occasionally, they want to go outside the county auditor and either hire a private auditor or the state auditor to come in and do those (extra) audits."

The Missouri Association of Counties lists Cole, Callaway, Boone and Camden counties in Mid-Missouri as first-class counties, while the rest of the region is third-class counties not affected by the bill.

Current law clearly requires the first- and second-class counties to pay the private firm for that outside audit, but doesn't carry the same requirement if the state auditor's office does the work.

"(That) is currently the practice," Dugger said, "so we're just putting it in statute so that it's understood."

Dugger's bill cleared the House a month ago on a 151-1 vote.

It also eliminates a current state law requirement that second-class counties can do an outside audit only "in every odd-numbered year," Dugger said. "We're taking that out of statute so they can do them at any time they need to do them."

Darrell Moore, the former Greene County prosecutor who is Auditor Tom Schweich's chief litigation counsel, told the committee they agree with those changes - and also support a second House-passed bill that wasn't on the committee's Wednesday agenda but likely will be combined with Dugger's bill before the Senate's debate.

That second bill is sponsored by Rep. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, and was passed by the House last Thursday by a 111-34 margin, and was assigned Tuesday to a different Senate committee.

"(It) brings the (auditor's) statute up to current audit language," Moore explained. "The statute was written, basically, in the 1930s and has not really been updated."

Hoskins' bill also would "create more efficiency in the auditor's office," Moore said. "We don't have enough auditors to do everything the statute currently requires us to do every year.

"(That bill) would remove some of the time limits so that we have greater flexibility to pick the audits that really need to be done, so that we can use existing resources and existing staff in a more efficient manner."

It also would make state law "abundantly clear that we have the power, if we want to (use it), to audit any of the retirement funds set up by the state - LAGERS, MOSERS or whatever," Moore told the committee.

"The second thing that it does is makes it abundantly clear that we can investigate fraud that involves mismanagement of public funds.

"Now, that would seem logical to all of us - but it's not explicit in the current statute."

Committee Chairman Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said the panel wouldn't act on Dugger's bill until the substitute is written.