Bump lagging on required audits

Misses deadline on 24% of 210 state agencies

STATE AUDITOR SUZANNE BUMP is way behind in conducting legally mandated audits of state agencies.

The auditor is required by state law to audit 210 state agencies every three years to verify they are using taxpayer dollars properly. Currently, the audits of 51 agencies, or 24 percent, have not been completed within the three-year time limit.

The problem appears to be getting worse, not better. Last October, CommonWealth reported that 29 agencies were past due for audits — many by substantial periods of time.  Bump spokesman Michael Wessler said at the time that the audits had been rescheduled for fiscal year 2019, which just ended on June 30, 2019. But the audits of only 4 of the 29 agencies have been completed, and another 26 agencies that were supposed to be audited by the end of fiscal 2019 haven’t been audited yet.

Three cabinet-level agencies — the Executive Offices of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Housing and Economic Development, and Labor and Workforce Development — were all supposed to be audited over three years ago, but they still have yet to be done. Wessler said a few of the agencies within these cabinet-level offices have been audited.

Other agencies whose audit deadlines are long past due include the Office of the State Comptroller (February 2017 deadline date), UMass Boston and UMass Medical School (May 2017), the Board of Registration in Medicine (July 2017), and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (December 2017).

Agencies that were due to be audited by June 2018, but which still have not been completed, include the Department of Revenue, the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, the Department of Youth Services, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, and the Appeals Court.

Wessler said that a number of the past due audits are in progress.

The 26 most recent audits to become due include the offices of the governor, the treasurer, and the inspector general; the probation department; the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination; the Supreme Judicial Court; the offices of a number of district attorneys; the State 911 Department; and the State Ethics Commission.

An audit of the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, which was released on June 26 – almost 1.5 years after it was supposed to be done – found the agency overstated the number of jobs it has created or saved and the dollar value of the loans it facilitated.

Bump, who has been state auditor for over eight years, declined interview requests and instead issued a statement through her spokesman saying her office “works every day to meet both the quality and frequency aspects of our statutory mandate.” Bump’s statement said the agency’s audits meet standards set by the US Government Accountability Office, which is why her office has received the highest rating in our two most recent peer reviews from the National State Auditors Association.

The highest rating given by the auditors association is a “pass,” and every one of the 48 state auditors who has retained the organization to evaluate their operations has received a pass most recently

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Jim Stergios, the executive director of the Pioneer Institute in Boston, believes that the auditor’s missed deadlines may help explain why problems in state government go undetected for such long periods of time.

“Without state audits being conducted on a regular basis as required by the law, we should not be surprised by the problems that arise like the failure of the Department of Children and Families to perform home-safety reviews, the State Police overtime scandal, the abuse of sick time and overtime by some MBTA workers, and most recently the failure of the Registry of Motor Vehicles to act on reports of drunk driving license suspensions received from other states,” Stergios said.

David Tuerck, the president of The Beacon Hill Institute in Medfield, said Bump should comply with the audit timelines by either making her office more efficient or hiring more people. “It almost seems that someone here needs to audit the auditor,” he said.