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Legislature

Lawmakers moving to reunite state's two auditing agencies

The Senate bill's sponsor says the proposal could improve the offices' effectiveness.

By LUCY MORGAN
Published April 1, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - In 1994, the Florida Legislature created a new agency to take a hard look at the efficiency and effectiveness of state agencies, leaving financial reviews to the auditor general.

On Monday legislators took a step toward reuniting the 9-year-old Office of Program and Policy Analysis and Government Accountability with the older Auditor General's Office to form a single agency called the Office of Government Accountability.

"This is not at all a suggestion that either would be eliminated," said Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-Palm Beach Gardens, chairman of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, which oversees the two agencies. "This is not a cost-cutting measure, but there might be a way to improve the effectiveness of two great teams."

Atwater and Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Fort Walton Beach, have filed bills to combine the agencies. Gov. Jeb Bush proposed merging them and cutting their budgets in half, but the new proposals do not appear to slash manpower.

Auditor General William Monroe has about 400 employees and John Turcotte, OPPAGA director, has 95.

Monroe said the proposal "has some merit" since the work of the two agencies sometimes overlaps. Turcotte has reservations.

"An independent agency can make a little stronger recommendation," Turcotte said. "There may be reluctance on the part of the CPA community to go that far."

Auditing always has been a controversial function in state government. In 1967, legislators took the Auditor General's Office away from the executive branch in a wild dispute with then-Gov. Claude Kirk.

Legislators tricked Kirk into allowing a bill to become law that established an auditor general as a legislative agency, leaving untouched the Auditor General's Office that reported to the governor. Until then, the auditor general never audited the governor and some other executive agencies.

Once the new agency was established, Auditor General Ernest Ellison and his staff resigned from the old agency and moved to the new one. Among the first to be audited was Kirk, who was criticized for using state money to finance a European honeymoon and pay a governess for his children.

Since then all state audits have been under the control of the Legislature.

- Times researcher Mary Mellstrom contributed to this report.

[Last modified April 1, 2003, 05:25:00]


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