West Virginia state government has done a poor job the last several years adhering to the proper checks and balances to ensure efficiency. Documents released by Governor Jim Justice’s Chief of Staff Nick Casey show that since 2012, an increasing number of state agencies have failed to meet deadlines for internal audits.
Just one out of ten state departments met their deadline last year. “It’s entirely frustrating for there to be this much noncompliance,” Casey said at a news conference Tuesday at the State Capitol.
These internal audits are not just bureaucratic benchmarks for pencil-pushers; they are recognized best practices for any organization that wants to justify or improve its value and maintain its integrity.
The audit breakdown is directly impacting colleges and universities. The U.S. Department of Education has imposed a five-year-long penalty on the state’s higher education system after missed audit deadlines three years in row.
As MetroNews’ Brad McElhinny reports, “The sanctions affect the payment of Pell grants and federal student loans. Usually the federal government provides that funding up front for colleges to distribute to students. Under the sanctions, colleges will have to come up with the money first and then receive federal reimbursement.”
Casey stresses that the state can advance the colleges some of their budgeted money to ensure they have no cash flow problems and that all students will get their funds, but that’s a five year long headache the state could have avoided if higher education had met the audit deadlines.
Gathering all the data necessary for a proper audit has been an issue, but that’s not an excuse. Some state agencies have been able to pull together the information, while others have failed. Some have put the blame on the state’s transition to the new Oasis computer system, but Casey’s not buying it. “Oasis is a ‘dog ate my homework,’” he said.
Governor Jim Justice is taking the sloppy bookkeeping seriously. “When I find out who is responsible, heads will roll,” Justice said last week. “We’ve got to get to the bottom of it because West Virginians deserve better.”
He’s right. We know state government won’t be a shining example of efficiency. However, it’s reasonable to expect taxpayer funded agencies to follow industry standard business practices to help those agencies reach their goals.
Justice promised to bring his business acumen to the Governor’s office. Here’s an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that skill, get to the bottom of this mess and hold people accountable.