Audits

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, on the heels of an announcement from House Speaker Tim Miley and Senate President Jeff Kessler of an investigation into an alleged fraud in the Department of Agriculture, recommended audits of state agencies and offices to find waste and abuse. The case in the agriculture department is so serious the U.S. Attorney was brought into it and is investigating the alleged mismanagement of a $5 million loan program.

Finding waste, fraud and abuse should be every officeholder’s goal. The attorney general is making the resources and talents of his office available, but there is reluctance on the part of the Democratic leadership of the Legislature.

Miley said more audits would be unfeasible and would require additional manpower. Audits already are done on a rotating basis.

Kessler is more adamant against the audits.

“(Morrisey) needs to be the chief law enforcement officer, so to speak, of the state, not the chief auditor,” Kessler said. “No, I would not see any appetite in the Legislature to grant additional auditing power to the attorney general.”

A proposed law rewarding whistleblowers will help, Miley said. The bill has passed the Judiciary Committee and is going before the full House.

Called the Fair Claims Act, someone claiming knowledge of a fraud against government can file a lawsuit and the attorney general reviews the claim to determine merit. If the claim has merit, the state becomes a party to a lawsuit and if it is won, the whistleblower receives 25 percent of the proceeds.

It passed in a 15-9 vote in the Judiciary Committee. The worry from Republicans was it could increase frivolous lawsuits and burden the attorney general’s office. These are legitimate concerns

What if no one blows the whistle? Perhaps if there were regular audits, the case in the agriculture department may have been found earlier. Regular audits could assure us public funds are being legally spent, ridding West Virginia of a stigma of corruption.

The Legislature should follow Morrisey’s recommendation.