Lack of enforcement teeth undercuts audit purpose

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Among the many important duties of the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office is checking the financial workings of local governments in the state, including municipalities, county governments and other public agencies.

The purpose of these audits of local bodies is to serve as a backstop to protect the interests of the public. The mission is to ensure that taxpayers’ money is handled appropriately and not used improperly.

Year after year, the office’s audits and reviews of the financial books of those local agencies turn up a variety of problems. They range from procedures and practices that are not in compliance with state law requirements and accepted accounting methods to local office setups that do not provide checks and balances on the actions of local officials. In some local governments, the audits turn up the same problems repeatedly.

But when it comes to taking enforcement actions or penalizing officials who have stepped out of line, the auditor’s office as well as local prosecutors face several obstacles. “There’s really very little remedy in the law to enforce any type of remedial action,” Stuart Stickel, a deputy state auditor with the state Auditor’s Office, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail for a recent report…

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