The Iowa Legislature passed SF 478 last week which effectively makes the State Auditor do his job with one arm tied behind his back.
The idea behind the bill was born out of concern for privacy related to auditing COVID-19 testing and reporting. However, the final legislative product goes far beyond that and will hinder the State Auditor from effectively conducting audits.
The bill outlines information the State Audtior’s office can not access. Some items listed in the legislation are reasonable, such as personal identifiable information in public health and school records.
Barring some information such as individual income tax returns is not reasonable if the State Auditor has probable cause investigating embezzlement, corruption, and theft of a government employee or contractor if there is probable cause and judicial approval.
The most egregious part of the bill, however, is not in the information it prohibits, but its language that allows governmental agencies to decide whether or not they will be subject to a full audit.
The bill reads:
“Any litigation between constitutional and statutory offices, administrative departments, commissions or boards of the executive branch of state government is prohibited. All disputes between said governmental offices and agencies shall be submitted to a board of arbitration of three members to be composed of two members to be appointed by the offices or departments involved in the dispute and a third member to be appointed by the governor. The decision of the board shall be final.”
While, of course, it doesn’t serve taxpayers well for cabinet agencies to sue one another. However, the State Auditor’s office is not a cabinet agency. This bill prevents the State Auditor from seeking judicial review when a state agency or the governor’s office does not want to particiapte in an audit. Instead the board of arbitration would include a representative of the State Auditor’s office, the agency being audited, and someone appointed by the governor.
How many decisions do we think will go the State Auditor’s way? I suspect not many.
Frankly, if the State Auditor were a Republican and not a Democrat, this bill would not have seen the light of day. But Rob Sand is not a Republican, so the Republican legislature want to tie his hands.
It wasn’t long ago that former State Auditor David Vaudt was the lone Republican state-wide officer. Republicans then would never support a bill like this as the minority party and rightfully so.
Vaudt famously said about his role in state government often to the applause of Republicans, “In God we trust, everyone else we audit.”
Apparently Republican lawmakers believe that only if a Republican is the one doing the auditing.
Governor Reynolds should veto this bill.