Auditor independence: An update on Lawrence, Kansas
We’ve written a good deal about auditor independence lately. The issue comes up all the time in our interviews, whether it involves retaliatory budget actions, departmental resistance to document requests or rejection of audit topics. We’re not alone in sensing rising tensions. The Institute of Internal Auditors recently published an article about public sector auditors, entitled “Under Siege”.
Some attacks on auditors threaten their very existence. Last week, we wrote about Lawrence, Kansas, where City Manager Tom Markus has asked for the one-person City Auditor office to be abolished. He made the same request of the Lawrence City Commission in 2016, but it failed. No decision has been made yet by the commission this year.
The Lawrence Journal-World ran an editorial supporting the auditor on June 14th, a day after the issue was discussed in a budget working session. “Perhaps the city of Lawrence should elevate — instead of eliminate — the role of city auditor,” it said.
In a letter to the editor on Monday, Rob Chestnut, a former mayor of Lawrence, wrote: “The city auditor has highlighted persistent issues with collections in Lawrence, and it is disappointing to see the reaction of our city manager. It is clear that the audit function is not well understood by leadership within the city.”
The status of the City Auditor’s office in Lawrence will be discussed again in a July 11 City Commission meeting. For more details on the situation, see our June 13, 2017 blog post, Lawrence, Kansas: A city auditor under attack.
We should also note that auditor struggles are far from new. Kansas City Auditor Douglas Jones recently reminded us of the excellent May 31, 2008 Governing article, “Focusing on Accountability”, written by our friend Jonathan Walters.