Audit: Oregon state agencies need more spending oversight

A secretary of state audit says Oregon state agencies need more oversight of their spending and the state needs to bolster efforts to make information more transparent to the public.

Posted: Aug 1, 2019 12:03 PM
Updated: Aug 1, 2019 12:19 PM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A secretary of state audit says Oregon state agencies need more oversight of their spending and the state needs to bolster efforts to make information more transparent to the public.

The Statesman Journal reports the audit, released Wednesday, found potentially wasteful spending of tax dollars, shortcomings in the state's transparency website and the failure of a new $21 million system to identify double-filled positions in the state's workforce.

Secretary of State Bev Clarno's statement:

“Legislators and the public need to know how agencies use taxpayer dollars. As the administrative function for the state, DAS’s oversight of and guidance to agencies can help enhance the quality and availability of this information. I believe these 16 recommendations will help enhance Oregon’s transparency efforts.”

While we sincerely appreciate the cooperation extended by DAS during the audit, government auditing standards require a response when an audited entity’s comments are inconsistent or in conflict with the findings, conclusions, or recommendations in the report. We have included a rebuttal to the agency’s response at the end of our report, which is intended to provide additional information and context for citizens and stakeholders.

Auditors provided their findings to the Department of Administrative Services, which oversees the execution of the state budget throughout state agencies and is responsible for Oregon's transparency website.

However, the audit's 16 recommendations weren't unanimously embraced by the department.

Administrative Services officials offered no agreement or disagreement on two of the audit's recommendations and only partially agreement on two others, which include enacting budget policy changes.

The department's response drew a rebuke in the Secretary of State report, which said a partial agreement is not an option and "clouds accountability and transparency."

"Our audit response stands on its own," Department of Administrative Services spokeswoman Liz Craig said in an email. She said agency officials look forward to working with the Secretary of State's staff and putting the agreed-upon recommendations in place.

The audit found state agencies do more discretionary spending toward the end of the two-year budget cycle. Agencies lose unspent dollars when the new budget cycle starts.

Some agency budget directors told auditors they were concerned that high amounts of unspent funding would lead to budget cuts. But they also told auditors that the end of budget cycle spending is a sign of good management practices.

Auditors were concerned that a rush to spend funding may lead to a lack of properly vetting spending decisions, including complex information technology needs.

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