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December 17, 2010


Lawmakers’ cuts would take swipe at Foley audits

by Deena Winter

There is a very long list of possible state budget cuts floating around the state this week, and there are many things on that list that would affect a lot of people.

Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley

This is just one potential cut, but I find it interesting: A committee chaired by Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln recommends changing the law that allows the state auditor to audit political subdivisions (cities, counties, etc.) “at his discretion.” Currently, State Auditor Mike Foley can audit any entity that receives general fund dollars from the state, and charge that entity with the cost of the audit.
“Therefore, general fund dollars are being used to pay for these audits,” the report says. Although that does not seem to be a given — a city could use its own general funds, not state general funds.
The committee suggests allowing Foley to audit these entities only if they “request” one (yes, many cities LOVE to be audited and are just begging the auditor to come in and take a look at the books — especially if they’re up to something nefarious) or if 10 percent of the people in the city sign a petition that requests the audit (like that would ever happen).
In other words, this committee would like Foley to stay in his office as much as possible. Quit pestering those poly-subs with his audits.
Foley said the legislative report is “loaded with lots of ideas that have not been fully thought out.”
“I don’t know where this one came from but I can’t get too worked up about it as I don’t think it will go anywhere,” he said. “The auditing of political subdivisions does not involve the use of state tax dollars and that’s what the senators will be looking to find come January.”
Apparently, somebody’s (Avery? A friend of one Chris Beutler) not to happy with the audits Foley has had the audacity to conduct. A big audit on Lincoln’s Antelope Valley Project comes to mind. Beutler was not happy about that one — nor was he happy when Foley announced his intention to audit Lincoln’s $340 million arena project. Beutler complained that the city already does an annual — if impotent — audit of city accounts and could handle the audit itself.
There’s a bit of a battle brewing between these two, and I suspect this cut might have something to do with it.
When I lived in North Dakota, the state auditor was scarcely seen nor heard — in fact, there was a story once about how she seemed to be spending more time at a side business than in the capitol. She needed to be audited, apparently.
It was a different story when I moved to Nebraska: the state auditor seemed to be everywhere at once, auditing this, auditing that, and finding corruption far more than I ever would have expected in squeaky-clean Nebraska.
And often, he’s auditing departments run by Republicans — which probably cuts into the number of colleagues sending him Christmas cards.
Personally, I like knowing somebody’s checking to see that tax dollars are being spent properly. This particular committee, apparently, does not. We’ll see if the rest of the lawmakers agree.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jane Kinsey
    Dec 17 2010

    Foley is the only hope to keep Lincoln politics in line. The Lincoln audit committe can’t get anything done as either Beutler and
    City Council won’t give them work to do. I spoke to the city Finance Officer about that and he said they don’t understand
    his department and their past recommendations “don”t fit” which means he is not going to listen to them. It is pretty obvious that there are problems at City Hall and dirty dealings that need to be addressed. I urge everyone to e-mail or attend public hearings to stop this proposed legislation and to support Auditor Foley at every opportunity.
    There is a big problem with all the money that the City is spending on new projects when there is a supposed budget crisis.
    We need an investigation and accountability.

  2. Gene
    Dec 17 2010

    If a subdivision takes in X amount of Federal funds, then an audit is required by Federal law. Avery’s suggestion seems to neglect this requirement.

  3. Bruce Johnson
    Dec 18 2010

    Why couldn’t Mike Foley audit the sale of Lancaster Manor? There were too many things there that didn’t add up.

  4. Andrew B
    Dec 20 2010

    I am certain Mr. Foley is not pure in all his motivations when he audits these organizations; he is, after all, a political animal and still can be controlled by the prevailing winds. However, his work at ferreting out bureaucratic lassitude and malfeasance is to be commended and cheered on. In a world where the term “regulatory capture” has been coined, to describe when governmental watchdog agencies are corrupted by the businesses and groups they were to be watching, it is nice to feel that we have a decent “bullshit detector” in the Auditor’s Office not as captured as many. With big expenditures, there are always lots of hands in the cookie jar.


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