Sen. Kenneth Corn on Monday expressed concern with State Treasurer Scott Meacham’s opposition to an independent audit of the Department of Corrections’ finances.
The proposal was included in a budget agreement approved by lawmakers last week. The audit would cost $1 million and would be performed by an independent firm contracted by the Legislative Service Bureau. Corn said that despite Meacham’s opposition to the proposal, the independent audit and a thorough study of the Department’s finances are necessary to find solutions to the agency’s long-term funding problems.
“Having the audit performed independently takes politics out of the equation,” said Corn, D-Poteau. “We need to find a long-term solution to the Department’s funding issues and the audit is a good starting point. We have to get out of this cycle of under-funding the agency and then providing them with enough supplemental funding to survive through the year.”
Corn said that while Meacham has called the proposal a waste of taxpayer dollars, he feels the audit is an effort to bring greater accountability and efficiency to both the appropriations process and the agency’s operations.
“It’s clearly time for reform in how we approach corrections funding,” Corn said. “This is not a waste of taxpayer dollars, it is just the opposite. This is a short-term expenditure that could lead to long-term solutions that guarantee taxpayer dollars are being utilized in the most efficient manner possible.”
In addition to auditing the department’s finances, Corn said, the study should address a variety of concerns including how the department utilizes bed space and the cost of housing prisoners at county facilities.
“We have to look at whether our infrastructure is viable and how overcrowding is affecting the agency’s funding needs,” Corn said. “There can be no denying that the agency is locked in a cycle of inadequate funding with aging facilities and growing prisoner populations. I don’t understand why the State Treasurer is not supportive of efforts to take a closer look at the situation and initiate reforms.”
The Governor has until Wednesday to take action on the budget proposal, which includes the independent audit of the Department of Corrections.