Augusta audit bill shot down again by lawmakers

Monday, March 19, 2012 2:44 PM
Last updated 5:01 PM
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ATLANTA — The House of Representatives voted Monday to defeat, for a second time, legislation that would have required forensic audits of city departments, authorities and contractors with budgets more than $500,000.

On Thursday, the House soundly defeated House Bill 1235, the Augusta-Richmond County Transparency in Government Act, but local delegation Chairman Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, served notice then of his intention to ask the House to reconsider its action on the next legislative day.

Monday was the next business day after being in recess Friday through Sunday. The House voted overwhelmingly to essentially erase Thursday’s decision and consider the measure again, a customary courtesy to a colleague wanting a second chance.

Monday’s vote came moments later, 54 for the bill to 93 against.

Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta, sponsored the bill as a way to build public confidence in the financial operations of the city, he said. He told members of the House, “This local legislation seeks to create transparency.”

It’s the local version of a bill that passed the House overwhelmingly several years ago, he said.

Rep. Barbara Sims, the lone Augusta Republican and the only member of the local House delegation not co-sponsoring the bill, said she had met with her Augusta colleagues after Thursday’s defeat and remained unconvinced.

She also placed on every representative’s desk a memo from six members of the Augusta Commission opposing the bill.

“The cost of this forensic-audit requirement would ultimately cost the taxpayers of Augusta millions of dollars annually and amount to nothing more than a ‘hunt’ as these entities are already subject to independent audits,” wrote Commissioner Joe Bowles, who is a certified public accountant, and Commissioners Matt Aitken, Joe Jackson, Jerry Brigham, Wayne Guilfoyle and Grady Smith.

Rep. Gloria Frazier, D-Hephzibah, reminded her House colleagues there are four commissioners who didn’t put their names to the letter.

Comments (8) Add comment
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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 03/19/12 - 04:57 pm
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Thank you House of

Thank you House of Representatives, and thank you, especially, Rep. Sims.

I'm sure those 93 representatives who voted against Murphy's bill rolled their eyes when they heard those enlightening words from Gloria Frazier.

dichotomy
33017
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dichotomy 03/19/12 - 05:08 pm
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Why is it Democrats always

Why is it Democrats always insist on wasting taxpayer money in the name of nothing but a witch hunt? Do they not realize why taxPAYERS eventually come to hate them? And somehow, and for the life of me I don't understand why, but I am sure that this must be racism driven. But it is about the dumbest proposal I have heard lately.......on the local level. It's kind of like the Democrats in Congress "protecting the consumer" by driving up the price of everything from checking accounts to gas and food.

dstewartsr
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dstewartsr 03/19/12 - 05:20 pm
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On this rare subject, I

On this rare subject, I disagree with you, Dichotomy: While it may be costly --though I suspect nowhere near as much as the opponents claim, as anything they want is invariably estimated at a fraction of cost while anything they oppose is 'too expensive'-- I am always suspicious when politicians become frugal with taxpayers money. My second reason is I also become skeptical whenever politicians tell me not to worry; the checkbook balances. Nothing to see here; move on.

david jennings
601
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david jennings 03/19/12 - 05:35 pm
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I'm with LL 100 %, thank you

I'm with LL 100 %, thank you Reps and thank you Rep Sims

Insider Information
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Insider Information 03/19/12 - 06:24 pm
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I'm still confused why an

I'm still confused why an audit is a bad thing.

What happened to the truth shall set you free?

Keep in mind, our city loves to meet behind closed doors. There is a reason.

Insider Information
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Insider Information 03/19/12 - 07:14 pm
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Can someone explain why the

Can someone explain why the same commenters who demanded an audit of the TEE Center / Parking Deck fiasco are suddenly now opposed to audits?

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 03/19/12 - 11:55 pm
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An independent study has

An independent study has named GA the most "corrupt" state.

Anyone surprised?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 03/20/12 - 08:06 am
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I'll comment again on the

I'll comment again on the audit(s), Insider.

The way I remember it, the chief cheerleader for the "forensic" audit(s) of the TEE Center and Marriott Parking Deck (there are really two issues here that would require two separate audits) was none other than Commissioner Bill Lockett. The ones who groaned and rolled their eyes were Joe Bowles, Jerry Brigham and Grady Smith.

Audits can be a good thing for companies, since they can reveal weaknesses in handling money that can be corrected by implementing new procedures. They can reveal embezzlement that can be corrected by firing guilty employees. They can reveal honest mistakes.

Auditing governments is a slimier business. In government, the tendency is to ignore or forgive mistakes, not correct them or improve the process. Hence, the audit becomes an exercise leading to no consequences and no follow-up. The audit, then, becomes a waste of money when done for a government. It becomes merely a tool to funnel taxpayer money to private accounting firms with no payback to taxpayers.

The scary thing about Quincy Murphy's bill is the scope. He wanted all city contractors receiving over $500,000 a year from the city to be audited every four years. That, in and of itself, might not be so bad. But then he threw in the poison pill — he wanted every city department with a budget over $500,000 to be audited every four years. The trouble is that there are several departments over $500,000. All you have to have is ten or twelve employees and you can reach the $500,000 threshold in salaries, benefits and supplies.

And given the city's history with those consultant "studies" stacked up like cordwood in dusty storage rooms, we know that the administrator would not actually read the audit reports and would not change anything based on the findings. We are the city that does not worry.

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