What if Tim Eyman was the state auditor?

Essay At A Glance

Close your eyes and imagine for a second – that a year from now, Tim Eyman is the state auditor.

Is this as bad as it sounds?

Yes, for Initiative 900 would give the state auditor unchecked, unbalanced authority to conduct performance audits of any state or local government agency.

What’s the big deal? Good question. Let us first consider what a performance audit is. A performance audit is an “independent assessment of the performance and management” via either a list of clearly measurable goals or “an assessment of best practices”.

Basically performance audits are conducted to see if government (or a business) is accomplishing what they set out to do and if not, help them do so.

For example, a performance audit of a city public works department would examine many potholes were filled and when, determine if drinking water of sufficient purity, and check whether sewage being treated properly.

Until the Legislature earlier this year passed performance audit legislation, the state auditor’s office could only verify legal compliance with open meetings laws and check the department’s books to make sure it was on a sound footing financially. But now State Auditor Brian Sonntag has the power to conduct performance audits, thanks to Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1064.

Hoping to ensure this new power would be used wisely, legislators created an oversight board to help the auditor establish appropriate criteria before contracting work out to an outside contractor.

One of the biggest problems with I-900 is the risk that the next or another future state auditor will have less scruples than the incumbent, Brian Sonntag.

That person could very well be Tim Eyman or one who shares his sentiment.

A “rogue” state auditor could abuse the power given to him or her to attack and coerce local governments into slicing and dicing public services.

Achieving efficiency is important, but if the name of the game is rolling back services beyond a certain point – then our qualify of life will be negatively affected.

As originally written, I-900 seems to require a full performance audit of every local government agency as well as every state agency with a $45 million annual cost. Tim Eyman only allocates $10 million. The auditor’s office has, however, stated that they do not believe Initiative 900 will force them to audit on such an extreme level.

But that’s not the point. Any government agency the auditor sees fit to review could be made into a target. The possibilities for mischief are endless with Initiative 900. Imagine the trouble an untrustworthy, anti-government ideologue could cause. Imagine Tim Eyman as state auditor. Or someone as unqualified getting elected to the position.

Let’s ensure that performance audits remain a tool for improving government, rather than a weapon intended to intimidate or embarrass our public workers and elected leaders. This autumn, when it’s time to vote, mark “NO” if you care about protecting checks and balances in state government.

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