After Josh Gallion won his bid in 2016 to be North Dakota’s State Auditor, he told the Bismarck Tribune that he hoped to improve the perception of the audit process and find savings for our state government. Gallion’s victory in the 2016 General Election came as no surprise. After all, the Democrats didn’t even field a candidate against him that year. His only competition was Libertarian Roland Riemers. In the end, the former Program Manager for the Department of Transportation and Accounting Manager for the Public Service Commission garnered well over 76% of the vote.
According to the Bismarck Tribune’s December 2016 article, Gallion’s vision was:
“… to change the mindset of state agencies from fear or anxiety over audits to being more accepting of them as an important tool in improving operations.”
On the one hand, the idea seems rational. But in politics, rational doesn’t necessarily equate to realistic. We must remember that the inherent nature of the State Auditor’s Office is to critique state government, state agencies, and political subdivisions through the audit process. That can be an uncomfortable thing when those being audited realize that the associated audit reports become a matter of public record— whether good or bad.
For those familiar with state politics, it’s well-known that there’s a certain amount of political pressure that goes along with the activities that take place at our State Capitol in Bismarck. In fact, I’d dare say that in some circumstances there’s a certain amount of intimidation that goes along with the territory.
Though he’s just a bit over two years into his term as State Auditor, it seems Josh Gallion is determined not to cave to any kind of political pressure or intimidation — perceived or real — that may exist at the State Capitol. Instead, he seems to be focused on doing the job he was elected to do— to be a champion of transparency and efficiency.
Take for example Gallion’s Performance Audit Report of the Governor’s Office, for travel and use of state resources, that was released last June. I wrote about this issue back in January when Rep. Bill Devlin’s (R – District 23) House Bill 1363 was first being considered. That bill proposed that records be kept on a quarterly basis identifying the costs of “air transportation services” and “security and transportation”. While Gallion’s report was a mixed bag, it definitely raised questions about transparency. After all, air travel costs totaled nearly $700,000 and Gallion couldn’t even provide details when it came to issues surrounding executive security.
As a side note, the aforementioned HB 1363 was amended and passed the House, but died in the Senate on a vote of 15-30.
The most recent example of Gallion’s auditing efforts, that shows some problematic aspects of the Bismarck bureaucracy, was released just last week. It’s the Single Audit Report for a two-year period ending June 30, 2018— all 254 pages of it. From the looks of it, the Department of Human Services hasn’t been the beacon of efficiency. A March 27, 2019 Press Release gives us the following highlights:
- The Department of Human Services has not completed the quarterly federal reporting for the Medicaid program since the September 2017 quarter. Only $184 million (or 11.5 percent) of the $1.6 billion in federal expenditures during the audit period was properly reported according to federal requirements.
- The Department of Human Services issued payments of $682,531 outside of the period performance for grant awards of the Child Care Assistance program. Expenditures were not recorded properly causing unallowable expenditures and inaccurate financial reporting.
- The Department of Human Services issued payments of $529,160 to improperly licensed child care providers. Our audit report found the Department has not designed consistent procedures to ensure licensing applications include all required documents.
- The Department of Human Services mis-keyed a payment amount into the system that went unnoticed for 15 months totaling $751,500 to one adoptive parent. The parent agreed on $1,125 as a monthly maintenance payment but when the amount was keyed into the system, it was keyed in as $51,225.
Despite Gallion’s desire for those he’s auditing to change their view of the process from fear or anxiety to accepting audits as a tool to improve, it’s unlikely such will be the case. In fact, a source at the Capitol tells me that there actually seems to be some resentment that exists as a result of the work that he’s doing. I’m not so sure that’s such a bad thing, because it tells me that Gallion may just be looking where he’s supposed to be.
What Josh Gallion has going for him though isn’t just the fact that he seems to be doing his job. But he seems to be a rising star with those who elected him. I frequently hear positive things about Gallion from the people I know in political circles. And he seems to have a fair amount of requests to speak to Republicans around the state.
At the end of the day, if Gallion is hated by the political establishment in Bismarck and loved by the people, then he comes out the winner. And if that is the result of greater transparency, then I think it’s a good thing.
PLEASE LIKE & SHARE!