IOWA LEGISLATURE

Auditor, legislator at odds over changing law to avoid federal fines

State Auditor Rob Sand appears at an event Nov. 2 in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
State Auditor Rob Sand appears at an event Nov. 2 in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — State Auditor Rob Sand and lawmakers are at odds over his proposal to change Iowa law to avoid paying penalties for what the federal government calls a discriminatory practice.

Sand and House Administration and Regulation Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Landon, R-Ankeny, went back and forth over the auditor’s request that state law be changed to allow his office to bill all state agencies for the work it does for them.

“We bill, by law, agencies that get federal funds. We do not bill those that don’t,” Sand told the committee. “They think that discriminates against the federally funded agencies. We disagree, but it’s their money, and they’re going to fine taxpayers until, essentially, the law gets changed.”

The fine amounts to more than $49,000 out of the state’s $7.2 billion general fund.

The change would have advantages for taxpayers, according to Sand, who submitted a status quo budget request of $986,193. That’s about 10 percent of the department’s funding. The remainder comes from billing for services to state and local governments.

State agencies that were billed for audit services would have an incentive to talk to their auditor before taking actions, Sand said. That would be an incentive for them to try to save taxpayer money.

Landon was concerned that allowing the auditor to set fees for the office’s services would result in less legislative oversight.

“That flies against what the trend has been in state government where we’re trying to get more control over these budgets, with more oversight, do more due diligence,” Landon said.

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A review of billing rates is included in his recommendation, Sand said. If the Legislature has other proposals, “we’re all ears.”

In the end, to avoid being fined by the federal government, he said, his office has to treat federally funded agencies the same as other agencies.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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