Legislators Friendly To Higher Ed Seek To Gut Power Of The State Auditor

bpeterson

Over the last couple of years the State Auditor Bob Peterson’s office has produced some very inconvenient reports for the university system. When the State Auditor was looking into the Dickinson State University “diploma mill” fiasco they pushed back against efforts by then-university system Chancellor Bill Goetz to limit the scope of the audit.

Eventually that audit uncovered hundreds of phony diplomas issued to foreign students, among other serious problems.

The State Auditor’s office also embarrassed the university system by uncovering abuse of student fees last year. Multiple universities were found to be charging unnecessary fees, and using fee revenues for inappropriate purposes, much to the ire of university officials.

So maybe it’s not surprising that some of our legislators well-known to be “in the tank” for higher education – Senators Judy Lee, Tony Grindberg and Larry Robinson as well as Rep. Kathy Hawken – have proposed legislation gutting the independence of the state auditor’s office. SB2149 would prohibit the state auditor’s office from initiating its own audits and rather require that all audits be approved by the the legislature.

I don’t know how this bill can be seen as anything other than retribution against the State Auditor’s office for causing the university system headaches.

The bill is set to have a hearing before the Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee tomorrow at 11:00am. One would hope the committee would recognize that the auditor’s office should be commended, not punished, for providing much-needed external accountability for the university system which has proven itself, time and again, to be incapable of holding itself accountable.

The university system has asked for a big budget increase, and a lot of new employees, to provide more internal oversight specifically to avoid scandals such as the one at Dickinson State. The legislature ought to be providing those resources to the State Auditor for external oversight.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • RCND

    “I don’t know how this bill can be seen as anything other than retribution against the State Auditor’s office for causing the university system headaches”

    That is exactly what this is, courtesy of some of the biggest RINO’s in the Legislature.

    • camsaure

      I wonder if they will be wearing their RINO buttons for the vote. It sure would be nice to know who all these phonies are so we can be rid of them in the future.

      • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

        They wore “RINO and proud of it” signs last session.

    • slackwarerobert

      Maybe an audit of the house and senate is in order. Preferably a TAX audit on every one of them.

  • oscarthelibertarian

    So Higher Ed argues for it’s own independence yet against another agency’s independence? How does that work?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Well it works great for them.

      ;-)

      • Roy_Bean

        And next they can save money by using inmate labor as guards at the prison.

  • ec99

    Long ago Higher Ed learned it could co-opt legislators by the incantation of the magic words “economic impact.”

  • Captjohn

    They picked the Senate to introduce the bill because it has a chance their. Anyone who has been in the House since the mid 90’s knows what a wondeful job The Auditors office has done. This is especially true as Peterson and staff have exposed so many flaws in the higher ed systems abuse of the taxpayers money. I would be aghast if it passes the House.

  • Clairvoyant

    Likened to the 3 Stooges: Moe: “What the hell’s the matter with you!!” (as he slaps his fellow Republicans) . “He’s one of us”! “You don’t pee on the leg of your brethren!!!” (eye gouge)

  • NDConservative2011

    Remember when an unauthorized $21,000 was spent by the director of Workforce Safety and uncovered by the State Auditor. The funds were used for employee recognition, employee birthday cakes and flowers, as well as employee awards for jobs well done. The director did not have the authority to spend the money and all political hell broke loose. Both Democrats and RINO Republicans were all aboard praising the auditor for uncovering the unauthorized use of funds. The witch hunt accomplished it’s goal as the director lost his job as well as his reputation. Justice was apparently served on a potitical scale.
    When hundreds of thousands of dollars were garnered by the fraud at Dickinson State, the leadership of higher ed made every attempt to hide the problem from the legislature as well as the general public.
    When abuse of student fees were uncovered, that too was swept under the rug. Through careful manipulating, the expense and the lease of the airplane at NDSU was hidden from the taxpayers as well as the legislature. Sneaky – Sneaky !
    The Chancellor believes that he needs dozens and dozens of “internal auditors” to be the watchdog of higher ed when in fact the system has proven to be very untrustworthy and being so, an outside audit must be kept in place. The old adage of the fox guarding the hen house comes to mind.
    Where the heck are the legislators who should have the courage to push back and allow for additional funding for the State Auditor. We need to see a bill allowing for at least 8 to 10 additional auditors to be added just to keep a close eye on the rouge higher education system. Friends of higher ed in the legislature have no limits to their bold attack as well as no shame. One wonders what else may come to light if a full blown audit by an independent agency would be performed at all 11 colleges.
    As a taxpayer, I for one believe an audit is long overdue.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Remember when an unauthorized $21,000 was spent by the director of Workforce Safety and uncovered by the State Auditor. The funds were used for employee recognition, employee birthday cakes and flowers, as well as employee awards for jobs well done. The director did not have the authority to spend the money and all political hell broke loose. Both Democrats and RINO Republicans were all aboard praising the auditor for uncovering the unauthorized use of funds. The witch hunt accomplished it’s goal as the director lost his job as well as his reputation. Justice was apparently served on a potitical scale.When hundreds of thousands of dollars were garnered by the fraud at Dickinson State, the leadership of higher ed made every attempt to hide the problem from the legislature as well as the general public.

      Funny how that works isn’t it?

      • Tim

        Not completely true. Rob, cates, and Hennen critized the state auditors office on the WSI issue and personally attacked employees of the auditors office and their families. It was pathetic. Amazing how they think irruption is acceptable in their pet agencies (one that Rob and family members used to b pd by) but not in one they have disdain for — I for one think its not acceptable in any government agency

        On another note Judy Lee was an apologist for WSI and now the SBHE. Just what does Judy Lee have against the state auditors office in trying to ensure ethical practices aren’t part of ND government agencies?? Is she corrupt herself and afraid her dirty laundry will be exposed?

        • RCND

          She basically apologized to Brescani and Shirvani after the Auditor’s Office presented their findings on the NDSU fee audit during the interim session. Sorta like the Judge apologizing to the crook after the jury finds him guilty

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