Auditor proposes legislation to streamline agency policy

By Matthew Patane

JEFFERSON CITY – In the midst of debate over various ways to save Missouri money, lawmakers announced that they want to look at the state agencies with the biggest budgets and see how they save money.

At a news conference Wednesday, state Auditor Tom Schweich, backed by Republicans in the House and Senate, proposed legislation that would allow his office to begin a “comparative analysis” and audit of the costliest five to 10 agencies to streamline procedures among them. Schweich hopes that information gathered by the analysis will help make the agencies more efficient and ultimately save the state money.

“We think it’s really going to introduce a new ability for the legislature to evaluate agencies and budgets in the future,” Schweich said. “Instead of having to do a ‘meat cleaver’ approach because of a lack of insight into how these agencies operate, we will have some real data to determine where the savings can be made on a more precise basis.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, filed Schweich’s bill Wednesday and said the analysis reveals the similarities between agencies, while more efficient methods should save taxpayers money.

“We will find ways to save the taxpayers money and to find greater efficiencies from these agencies,” Shaefer said. “[The analysis] really puts it into perspective, you’re not looking at apples and oranges, you’re looking at apples and apples and it makes a lot more sense.”

Democratic Floor Leader Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County, questions the auditor’s motives in proposing the legislation and said he does not see why Schweich needs the proposal or the money to do a job that his office should already have the ability to do.

“I realize that [Schweich] is new to the job, but I don’t understand why he can’t do a comparative audit now,” Talboy said. “I understand he may be upset about his budget being cut, but if it’s a matter of money then I think we should be having that conversation instead.”

Rep. Sue Allen, R-St. Louis County, plans to file the proposal in the House later this week.

“This comparative audit would provide better insight for how our tax dollars are spent through more transparency and more consistency,” Allen said.

If Schweich conducts the audit, which must be done before Aug. 28, 2013, he would present his findings and advice about how to consolidate the agencies’ policies to the General Assembly.

In order to pay for the analysis, Schweich is requesting $300,000, which he said would be recouped once the standardized procedures are in place. Schweich does not know an exact number for how much revenue could be saved by this proposal but believes it should be a significant amount.

“We will look at the best practices of up to 10 of the biggest state agencies, determine what those best practices are … and then issue a report on recommendations of how agencies can comport to these recommendations,” Schweich said. “We hope that this will save the state, literally, millions of dollars.”

Schaefer is optimistic about the passage of the proposal and its importance of creating a more efficient agency system.

“I think any time that we can, as a state, implement efficiencies, and at least looking at a new way of looking at things to find greater efficiencies for taxpayers, we should do it,” Shaefer said. “I think pretty much everybody’s for efficient government, especially as something as innovative as this, and even though it seems like it would have been done in the past, it hasn’t been.”

Schweich said that if the legislature passes the proposal, it would be the first time Missouri implemented this type of analysis and potentially make Missouri the only governmental body, aside from Washington D.C. to do so.

“The purpose of the legislation is to do the first ever comparative audit of Missouri state government,” Schweich said.