A Kansas Republican lawmaker has introduced a proposal to give the state’s treasurer authority over a unit of state auditors in an effort to improve oversight in Topeka.
Rep. Kevin Jones, a Wellsville Republican who is mounting a bid for Congress, introduced the legislation Tuesday, the latest in a string of transparency proposals this legislative session that have been introduced after The Star published a series of articles last year highlighting a lack of transparency in the state.
Jones’ proposal would shift auditors who work for the Legislature and put them under the authority of the state treasurer, a move that he said would increase the independence and effectiveness of the auditing unit.
“Right now everything’s dictated essentially by the Legislature. … We determine the audits that are done — even, strangely, audits on ourselves — and we really need an outside agency view. What my intention is to bring it closer to the people,” Jones said in a phone call.
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Jones said his bill would enable people to propose audits directly to the treasurer, a statewide elected position.
Braden Dreiling, the spokesman for Treasurer Jacob LaTurner, said his office is “not currently pursuing legislation, but will gladly fulfill any additional responsibilities that the legislature deems appropriate.”
Justin Stowe, the interim director of the Legislative Division of Post Audit, the auditing unit that works for the Legislature, said his agency is aware of the proposal but as a nonpartisan agency it would not be taking a position.
To support his call for a more robust and independent auditing agency, Jones pointed to revelations, first reported by The Star, that former Commerce Secretary Antonio Soave had awarded state contracts to personal friends and associates, as well as the recent controversy surrounding transportation spending by the Kansas Department of Education.
The Republican-controlled committee that controls the Division of Post Audit last month rejected a proposed audit into Soave’s tenure at the Commerce Department on a 5-3 vote.
Several candidates for Kansas governor expressed a desire to reestablish the office of state auditor, which has not existed since the 1970s, following The Star’s transparency series.
Earlier this month, Sen. Dennis Pyle, a Hiawatha Republican, introduced a bill that would bring back the office temporarily but make its continued existence contingent on whether the auditor can find more waste than its overall budget.