Oregon law requires large state agencies to have internal auditors, though more than a dozen do not. Lawmakers can change that when they meet in 2019, and they should.
Internal auditors are agency employees whose work helps assure the public that money is being spent wisely. They may track cellphone billing information, as auditors with the state Department of Corrections did earlier this year, according to the Portland Tribune. In that case, auditors found no one informed the agency’s cell service provider when people left the agency and the agency was no longer responsible for their cellphone bills. The lapse, they said, had cost the agency $41,466 over the previous five years.
Internal auditors do more than just uncover wasteful spending. They can also see that agencies are complying with the rules and laws that govern them. They are a bulwark against fraud, mismanagement and other problems that cost the state, and ultimately the taxpayers, money.
Oregon law has required them for its largest agencies since 2005, but at least 14 of those agencies have no internal auditors on staff, and, in fact, the number of internal auditors has fallen from 53 in 2007 to 32 today.
They’re supposed to work at every agency that spends at least $100 million every biennium, has more than $10 million annual cash on hand or has 400 or more full-time employees. Among agencies lacking auditors are the Oregon Liquor Commission and the Public Utility Commission.
Gov. Kate Brown included 14 new internal auditor positions in her proposed 2019-21 budget. Assuming they are funded, 13 will go to state agencies that lack them and a 14th will go to the Department of Administrative Services to oversee the program. That puts DAS and its director, Katy Coba, squarely on the hook to see that the auditor program, once funded, is running as it should. Oregonians deserve no less.