Photo: Jason Netherland (Flickr)
Democrats are questioning the role of the state auditor and are calling for an independent audit of the state’s financials after Governor Mitch Daniels’ announcement Tuesday that $320 million of corporate tax revenue mistakenly had not been moved into the correct place in the state’s coffers for nearly five years.
Michigan City Representative Scott Pelath says an investigation needs to be conducted to determine how this was allowed to happen for so long without anyone noticing. He says he questions the independence of the state auditor, a Republican elected official.
“If the auditor wants to launch his own investigation, I’m certainly not going to discourage him from doing so,” Pelath says. “But I have a hunch he’s not going to do that.”
Auditor Tim Berry says this comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about his role in government. He says his title as auditor is a misnomer. His primary responsibility is to keep track of outgoing expenditures, not money coming into the state.
The job of auditing state government belongs to the State Board of Accounts. But its regular audits did not catch the recent mistake, and Berry says he thinks having state audits performed by an outside, independent body might be a good idea.
Budget committee chairman Jeff Espich says he thinks more time is needed to sort through what happened before the state spends taxpayer money on an independent audit.
“An informed decision would not be to say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ An informed decision would be to say, ‘Let’s continue to learn and see how much digging has been done,’” he says.
The mistake was discovered by an internal auditor at the Department of Revenue. The governor says audits of all other revenue streams have been conducted since and no other mistakes have been found.