There's been concerns expressed about the lack of efficiency in the office for many years. —State Auditor John Dougall
SALT LAKE CITY — State Auditor John Dougall said Wednesday he's been considering launching a performance audit of embattled Attorney General John Swallow's office, but for now will monitor the Legislature's efforts.
"There's no reason for us to investigate if they are," Dougall said. "We don't want to step on what they're doing."
Members of the Legislative Audit Subcommittee voted unanimously on Monday to have Legislative Auditor General John Schaff come back in the fall with a recommendation of what areas of the attorney general's office should be audited.
Dougall said he met with Schaff Wednesday to discuss the audit and the pair plan to get together again in a few weeks to determine if there is a role for the state auditor, "things we ought to be doing."
Elected last November, Dougall said he had long heard concerns raised about the attorney general's office, including whether the lawyers assigned to represent various state agencies handle contracts in a timely manner.
None of the concerns, Dougall said, are about the current controversy resulting from allegations made against Swallow, the subject of federal, state and local investigations including by a newly formed Utah House committee.
"There's been concerns expressed about the lack of efficiency in the office for many years," Dougall said, noting that while he was serving in the Legislature, he complained to former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Dougall said he has not received a single complaint about Swallow, a fellow Republican who also took office in January.
"For me, personally, they're getting the work done," Dougall said of the performance of the attorney general's office under Swallow. He said the auditor's office relies on several attorneys in the office for legal interpretations and help with contracts.
"From my perspective, they've been very responsive," the state auditor said. "I don't know about statewide, but in terms of my office, they're getting it done and they're doing a good job."
Still, Dougall said, "it's always good to do periodic performance audits." The state auditor typically focuses on financial compliance audits, but Dougall has initiated performance audits in several areas, including vocational rehabilitation programs.
The legislative leaders who make up the Legislative Audit Subcommittee likely won't decide whether to proceed with their audit until October or November, when Schaff is expected to present his recommendations.
Schaff has also said he is looking at the office, not at who's in charge. He said given the month or more of work that will go into developing the recommendations for an audit, he expects to be assigned to complete it.
House Minority Leader Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake, said an audit would not duplicate the work that will be done by the still to be selected House committee created last week to investigate Swallow.6 comments on this story
"The investigation is very narrowly tailored to the officeholder in charge, who's elected, relating to his service and the public trust," Seelig said. "An audit is about public administrators and agency operations. It's separate."
Still, the minority leader said, "certainly there is potential for bleed over."