News

Maybe this year for government audits

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

State Rep. Mark Miloscia so far is having a good year in Olympia.

After three years of work, his efforts to pass government accountability legislation is meeting with early success this session of the Legislature.

“There’s a big difference this year,” he said. “I ran into the governor and she said, ‘Mark, where’s your bill? I want it to be the first bill I sign this year.’”

Government accountability appears to be the issue of the year. Governor Christine Gregoire has said she has some government accountability issues she wants to put into law, and public initiative proponent Tim Eyman has an accountability initiative in the works.

Miloscia’s legislation, House Bill 1064, proposes auditing each state agency and assigning it a grade to inform citizens how well government is performing.

The grades would be in several areas, including quality-management, productivity and fiscal efficiency, program effectiveness, contract management and oversight, internal audit, internal and external customer satisfaction, statutory and regulatory compliance, and technology systems and on-line services.

The results each year would be presented to the governor and posted on the Internet.

“That is unprecedented,” Miloscia (D-30th District and Federal Way) said. “This bill will hold all 150 agencies accountable on how well they’re doing with efficiency.”

The bill creates an independent citizen oversight board to develop assessments and grade state agencies. The board would work with the state auditor to conduct the audits.

The citizen oversight board itself would be up for an audit, to be overseen by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, starting in June 2007 and every four years thereafter to ensure the board is living up to its responsibilities.

While there are existing agencies already auditing state government, Miloscia said his bill calls for something different. The state auditor makes sure state agencies balance their books correctly and are legally compliant with spending, he said, but the auditor doesn’t look at where things could be done more efficiently and doesn’t see how state agencies compare.

Miloscia added the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee only conducts about six audits a year and has a particular weakness: “It is run by the Legislature. When you get legislators together, you start to get into politics.”

House Bill 1064 was signed by lawmakers in both parties, including Rep. Skip Priest, a Republican from Federal Way. Several testified in support of the legislation, but no one testified against it.

“There is very good support on both sides of the aisle,” Miloscia said. “There’s strong support in the Senate. It’s got some powerful people over there pushing the bill. It’s not going to die because leadership killed it.”

Last year, similar legislation sponsored by Miloscia made it to the Senate, but died on the last day of the session as a frantic and tired chamber tried to pass final budget legislation to wrap up and go home.

Still, despite the early success of House Bill 1064, Miloscia isn’t getting his hopes up too high. He now plans to work with his colleagues in the Senate to push the bill through “with minimal changes,” he said, and onto Gregoire’s desk for her signature.

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