June 20, 2024

Opinion: Good government works when citizens are informed and involved

By State Auditor Rob Sand

As Iowa’s taxpayer watchdog, I hear from Iowans just about every day with concerns about state and local government. Oftentimes, there are steps my office can take to address those concerns; other times, the next step is as simple as directing folks to the best channel in state government to address their question. Sometimes, it’s easy to also confuse misplaced priorities for misspent money—one requires a change in leadership, and the other requires an audit investigation.

Randy Evans, the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, wrote a column that raised questions about the responsibility of the state auditor to investigate secret government settlements. Mr. Evans writes that the situation “should have State Auditor Rob Sand knocking on the doors at City Hall” and “asking questions on behalf of the tax-paying people of Davenport.”

What many people don’t know, however, is that the state auditor needs some form of a request to conduct a review at the local level.

How could such an engagement begin? A few ways. Most cities and school districts hire a private CPA firm to perform their annual required audit. For those places, the state auditor can’t perform an additional engagement without a written request from an elected official or employee of the entity, or a petition from at least one hundred eligible electors of the entity.

I’ve said many times that being a taxpayer watchdog isn’t just a job for the state auditor, it is a job for the public too. The people who know their community best are usually the ones who first notice when something is wrong — that’s why we need local elected officials, public servants, and citizens like you to speak up!

Good government only works when citizens are informed and involved in its outcomes. The state auditor’s job is to be a bit of a nitpicker, and I can assure you nobody cheers when the auditor comes knocking. When public officials violate the public trust, though, they must be held accountable. But if it is something local, keep in mind, we need a qualifying request.

That’s the job I was elected to do; I’ll always come down on the side of Iowa’s taxpayers. Iowans always know that their taxpayer watchdog barks as often as necessary — whether the perpetrators are Democrats, Republicans, or independents. While that may keep some corrupt public officials up at night, the rest of us sleep soundly.

If you have questions about how an audit works or have reason to suspect public dollars are being misused, please sent us an email at info@aos.iowa.gov.