February 25, 2023

Appropriations for State Auditor pass committee

When newly-elected State Auditor Joseph Maestas took office, he found himself in charge of a budget he had no say in developing.

This led to one bill proposal for appropriations that otherwise would have been included in the State Auditor’s Office budget.

SB 323 seeks to replace the SAO’s current fraud complaint management system.

“We get anonymous complaints of fraud, waste and abuse, by telephone, by email through our website, through various means,” Maestas said. “Intake averages about 300 cases a year. Currently, we have about 300 active cases and what I can say is about half of those cases are actionable.”

The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bill at its Friday afternoon meeting.

This and two other SAO-related bills were also heard, and passed by the committee Friday.

SB 362 proposes a one-time $100,000 appropriation to the SAO to conduct an independent study to see if changing the audit report process of an agency-by-agency process to a sole state audit of all agencies.

The study would determine the cost and feasibility of changing the audit reporting process.

“We are the only state that does not have a singular audit or a consolidated audit of all state agencies and we believe that the study will bear out, hopefully the more advantages than disadvantages but one advantage we think will come out of this study is that the state could realize much better terms in its state bonding.

SB 362 passed on a 5-1 vote with Sen. Gregg Schmedes, R-Tijeras,as the sole vote against the bill.

“I’m concerned if we consolidate this, it’s going to decrease our accountability and…,just potentially open the door to more conflict issues,” Schmedes said. “Probably not harmful in studying it, but I have a small concern there.”

The third bill discussed was SB 376  which was unanimously approved by the committee.

The bill gives $1 million from the general fund to the State Auditor’s Office for FY24 “to help small local public bodies get on track with their financial reporting duties. Any unexpended or unencumbered balance remaining at the end of fiscal year 2024 shall revert to the general fund,” the bill states.