Published: June 24, 2020
Colleagues, the hard work of accountability that you achieve with regular auditing has never been more important. Audits give reassurance to taxpayers and governments alike as we face an economic slump deeper than anything since the Great Depression. Especially when public programs like health care and emergency services are in high demand, this transparency is essential.
I know local governments are taking extraordinary steps to preserve public health and promote public welfare. As advocates of good government, we have been working hard to provide guidance and support as you navigate this pandemic. That guidance has centered on clearly documenting your decisions and actions. You will find more important insights in this edition of the Audit Connection.
Public transparency is required when so many tax dollars are involved. Congress has dedicated more than $2.5 trillion in emergency funding to fighting the crisis nationwide. Even more may come. So far, that support includes $1.3 billion provided to Washington’s local governments and additional $1.6 billion in funding to state agencies. Congress is considering even more aid to state and local governments for the future. This federal funding is in addition to the $400 million in supplemental support provided by the state.
Yet, each day, the economic damage from the pandemic is becoming clearer, from Seattle to Walla Walla. The revenue our communities rely upon to fund everything from public hospitals to parks has declined sharply. The governor recently announced that state agencies, too, must cut costs and furlough employees to address budget shortfalls.
Governments in Washington must navigate historic cross-currents – a sudden influx of emergency federal funding and a steep drop in local tax revenue. These intense pressures reveal how valuable our limited public resources are. Transparency in how governments use these funds is all the more important.
While I know funds are very tight in these times, the average cost of an audit by our office is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of a local government’s budget. The return on that investment into transparency is immeasurable, in terms of both public trust and stewardship.
The role of the State Auditor’s Office is to shine a light on how public money is spent before the crisis, during the crisis, and through our future recovery. We will be there, and with the continued commitment of our colleagues in public service – with your help — so will Washington’s time-honored record of accountability.