Tag Archives: State Board of Accounts

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish…Again

Here’s a great example of what happens when a fixation on keeping taxes low no matter what (yes, Governor Pence, I’m looking at you) ends up preventing authorities from engaging in oversight that would actually save taxpayers money.

The IBJ has reported that 

Local governments will see fewer audits due to a recent change in Indiana state law.

The State Board of Accounts used to audit cities and counties every year, and audit school corporations every two years. Now those audits will be conducted every four years unless there are red flags.

And why is the frequency of audits declining? Budget constraints.

But budget limitations and the sheer number of entities that require auditing means there’s too much work and not enough people to do it, Caldwell told The Muncie Star Press….

Local officials confirmed this week that Delaware County and the city of Muncie haven’t been audited for three years.

State audits are important because they can uncover costly financial mistakes, wrongdoing by officials and other issues that local governments can correct–ideally, before the error or wrongdoing has cost significant amounts of money.

In the not-so-distant past, audits by the State Board of Accounts have found problems with the Muncie Sanitary District’s finances and then-Delaware County Treasurer John Dorer, who resigned in February 2015 after pleading guilty to a charge over the mishandling of funds. It would seem prudent to continue supervision of Delaware County to insure that these problems are not continuing, rather than taking a three-year hiatus.

There’s an axiom from the criminal law literature that is relevant here; it is the certainty of punishment, rather than the severity, that deters criminal behavior. (In other words, if you are considering a burglary, and the punishment is 20 years, but the likelihood of getting caught is 5%, the deterrent effect is negligible. If, however, the punishment is 5 years, but the likelihood of getting caught is 95%, the deterrent effect is considerable.)

Most reasonable people would not reduce police patrols in a previously lawless neighborhood and expect crime to go down. Same principle.

The Pence Administration is “saving” us money by keeping taxes (and revenues) low. In the process, it is issuing an unintended invitation to embezzlement and mismanagement. I’d be willing to wager that taxpayers will end up losing much more money than the administration is saving by reducing the mechanics of oversight.

But then, as a former student of mine who was working for the administration until he quit in disgust puts it, this Governor’s office has zero interest in actually governing.

That’s becoming more obvious with every passing day.