Iowa Dems blast Republicans’ latest attack on auditor’s office

By Ty Rushing

February 20, 2024

Iowa Democrats are accusing Republicans in the Iowa Senate of trying to reduce transparency in government after they passed yet another bill on Monday to dilute the power of State Auditor Rob Sand’s office—the only statewide office held by Democrats.

“Governor Reynolds and Senate Republicans are making one of the best cases for why our state needs to elect some real balance later this year,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart. “The last two years, Iowa Republicans have forced through measures to limit the auditor’s oversight ability and reduce transparency. 

“Ironically, Republicans literally used Illinois as the model for this bill. Does that seem wise to anyone who knows Illinois history? It’s important to note that taxpayers would also be on the hook for this more expensive, less efficient system.”

SF 2311, which still has to pass in the Iowa House and be signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds before it becomes law, would allow state agencies to hire certified public accountants (CPA) to conduct audits instead of the state auditor’s office.

The bill was introduced last week by Sen. Mike Bousselot (R-Ankeny), and this is the second year in a row that Bousselot has sought to limit the power of the auditor’s office.

In 2023, Bousselot authored SF 478, which took away the ability of the office to subpoena records for audits. Instead, representatives from Sand’s office, the entity being audited, and Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office have to meet in arbitration to decide if a record can be used in the audit. A majority vote decides how that matter will be decided and those decisions are final.

Minutes before the Iowa Senate was originally supposed to debate SF 478, Bousselot introduced an amendment that totally rewrote the bill. Neither Senate Democrats nor Sand’s office were aware of the changes before the debate took place.

Sand has gone on the offensive about SF 2311. In a press conference last week, he called out the partisan nature of the bill.

“The purpose of SF 2311 is not to create a better system for taxpayers, it’s to undermine an independently elected official of the state of Iowa and all of the people who work in this office for taxpayers,” Sand said.

Bousselot has said this bill is about giving state entities the same flexibility as cities and counties that use CPAs to conduct audits. However, Sand has contended that the legislation would prevent his office from being able to conduct special investigations, remove oversight, and prevent his office from conducting a re-audit on missed issues.

SF 2311 would also cost taxpayers more money.

A fiscal note on the bill from the nonpartisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency (LSA) noted that over the last three years, the state auditor’s office has “averaged approximately 65,000 hours of auditing the state and state departments at a rate of $85 per hour, for an average cost of $5.3 million per year.”

The LSA estimates the cost would be higher under a private CPA firm, noting that period examinations for small cities range from $95 to $183 per hour, and up to $260 per hour for state entities.

“Instead of trying to avoid accountability, Republicans need to respect the will of the voters and ensure that our State Auditor is able to track every taxpayer dollar so that all Iowans can have faith in their government,” Hart said.

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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