Cash OK'd For Rep. Trahan's State Audit Agency

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Cash OK'd For Rep. Trahan's State Audit Agency

Most excellent and job very well done. Can we have these people give lessons to some others up there who need it?Also, can someone tell me why there is no provision for an audit of the books at the MRP? What professionally run organization have you ever known that didn't have audits required???[ 06-12-2003: Message edited by: Dagny T ]

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Cash OK'd For Rep. Trahan's State Audit Agency

Lewiston Sun Journal
6/12/03
Money approved for overseer agency
By Bonnie Washuk
Staff Writer [img]http://www.asmainegoes.com/Legislature121stPics/trahan_david.jpg[/img]
[i]Rep. David Trahan[/i]
After three years of trying, it appears Rep. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, has succeeded in getting funding for a new office to ensure taxpayers’ money is being spent wisely by state departments.Included in a new spending package headed for passage in the Legislature is $300,000 a year to fund the new legislative Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA).Republican-led efforts to get better financial accounting of state departments and programs have been an uphill battle. Initially Democrats weren’t as excited about the idea, Trahan said. Achieving a unanimous vote from the Appropriations Committee to include OPEGA money in the budget “was a major breakthrough for us,” he said.Rep. Joseph Brannigan, D-Portland, House chairman of Appropriations, credited Trahan and Rep. Matt Dunlap, D-Old Town, for their persistence “and tireless work” to get OPEGA off the ground.Several questionable state department practices that came to the public’s attention this year helped bolster calls for improved accountability. They were:• In March, Sen. Neria Douglass, D-Auburn, said she had discovered that a Department of Human Services worker had squirreled away 27 checks totaling $434,000 in her drawer to pay for bills that didn’t yet exist. An investigation revealed that the worker never intended to steal any money, but with state cutbacks looming she was inappropriately keeping the money for future bills.• In May, State Auditor Gail Chase revealed that $19 million in DHS spending could not be properly accounted for.• Also in May legislators learned that federal officials were auditing Maine’s migrant student program in the Department of Education over concerns that students who were not migrants were given migrant status, triggering more federal money to the state.• And on Monday, DHS officials revealed a surprise $15.5 million deficit attributed to federal waivers that were counted on but did not yet come through.Legislators don’t have the skill, or time, to delve into programs and department books to evaluate programs, Trahan said. Legislative committees now rely on department heads to give them information. “You can’t get a good evaluation if they evaluate themselves,” he said.Meanwhile, the state auditor only reviews financial statements of departments, and does not look at department books. No one is probing programs to see whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth, Trahan said. He added that 44 other states have independent evaluators who work for lawmakers, which is what OPEGA will do.“We absolutely need it,” Trahan said. “Now, with this independent evaluation, we can show the public if programs are working properly.” That, he said, will save money and will enhance the public trust in state government and state workers.House Speaker Patrick Colwell, D-Gardiner, agreed, saying he was pleased “that we will soon have an independent, bi-partisan review of all state government’s many functions.” In a time of deficits, it was hard work, Colwell said, to find the money to get the agency started.In addition to the $600,000 for the next two years, another $150,000 will be transferred to the new office by the Transportation Committee, which wanted the Department of Transportation evaluated.An OPEGA director would be hired in January. That director will contract for independent evaluators to review programs. About a year from now the new office will begin to generate reports, with more indepth reports coming out in the late summer, Trahan said.The Department of Transportation, which relies heavily on federal money, would be among the first to be studied, along with a look at the state’s fleet of vehicles, to see if savings could be made.Trahan said he became “obsessed” about the need for independent evaluations after a constituent said work he had a state contract to do was being called off, “which was inappropriate.” That eventually was straightened out, “but I found out that no one was ensuring that programs were being run the way the Legislature intended,” Trahan said.bwashuk@sunjournal.com [url=http://www.sunjournal.com/story.asp?slg=061203audit]http://www.sunjourna...

Mark J. Ellis
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Re: Cash OK'd For Rep. Trahan's State Audit Agency

Most excellent.Thank you, Reps. Trahan and Dunlap!marcos

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