Slow Bleed: Audit shows state has places to cut budget

West Virginia Gov.-elect Jim Justice insisted throughout his campaign that there is nothing left to cut in state government, no fraud or waste left to eliminate. Yet examples continue to fall at his feet, some of them from the Legislative Post Audit Division.

Among the problems with state government, probably in any state, is that some contractors assume they can over charge — pull an extra buck or two out of the state’s coffers — and no one will notice or care. Often, they are right. The Audit Division’s report on the Office of Chief Medical Examiner determined the state was paying too much to vendors who transported bodies for the state. Sometimes they paid for bodies taken to the wrong location, or for “wait time at the scene,” which is not permitted.

Other charges were duplicates, excessive mileage reimbursements, or additional fees for transporting two or more bodies together. Over five years, the reported found the medical examiner’s office overpaid transporters by $217,597.

(The report suggests the Department of Health and Human Resources should request that money back from vendors, who will likely respond with a “Good luck.”)

More than $43,000 a year may not sound like a lot of money, in the grand scheme of a state budget. But to one person who is losing his or her job this year, it might sound pretty nice. And there is no denying that similar long-ignored waste exists in nearly every corner of state government.

Justice knows that; and if it takes more such audits and reports to make him stop that kind of slow bleeding, so be it. He cannot turn a blind eye to it forever. Voters certainly will not.