State Auditor Tom Allen is asking all independent local government auditors to report directly to him in an effort to avoid abuses such as the apparent misuse of $3.5 million at the Timpanogos Mental Health Center.
Allen, who presented his plan at a news conference Friday, said he would much rather receive the reports than perform his own audits on all mental health centers in the state, as a proposed law would require.He is hoping for a chance to present his plan to lawmakers when they meet for a special legislative session beginning Tuesday.
"I really believe most local governments will be supportive of this," Allen said, noting his plan would cover all agencies, not just mental health centers. "We've had a problem, but they (ental health centers) are not unique. I'm talking about something much broader."
The Timpanogos Mental Health Center came under fire in April after the attorney general's office began investigating charges that more than $3.5 million in public money had been abused over four years.
If lawmakers require him to audit all mental health centers, Allen said, he would have to hire many more than the 35 auditors he now employs.
He said his own plan requires no additional auditors.
Allen's plan also would require governments to follow tougher rules when hiring independent auditors. He also wants auditors to send him a letter outlining problems found in agencies. Local elected officials also should send him a letter telling how they will correct any problems.
If he can't get lawmakers to support his plan, Allen said, he will institute it through administrative rules. But before doing that he will meet with officials from counties, cities and school boards to explain the procedures.
Current law requires all local government agencies to hire their own independent auditors each year. But the auditors who examined the Timpanogos center kept sending reports that all was well.
"There was no indication there was any problem at all," Allen said.
However, some government agencies already follow the rules he is proposing, Allen said.
Under his plan, local governments would have to follow rules outlined in a federal booklet titled "How to Avoid a Substandard Audit" when hiring independent auditors. The rules require governments to solicit bids from qualified auditing firms and to prepare written agreements with the firm chosen.
The auditors would be reviewed by their peers every three years and would be required to continue their professional education.
Allen said his office would make sure the requirements were followed.