- Florida’s Auditor General told lawmakers at a Joint Legislative Committee meeting that adding law enforcement would enhance her ability to do her job
- The State of Ohio expanded it’s auditor general department with law enforcement, leading to major fraud crackdowns and millions returned to taxpayers
- Before any expansion of enforcement powers could take place, lawmakers would need to approve the proposal and Governor Ron DeSantis would need to sign off
(The Center Square) — Florida Auditor General Sherrill Norman would support the addition of sworn law enforcement officers to her office by lawmakers.
These officers can help state auditors by making arrests and maintaining transparency over the state and local governments and their stewardship of taxpayer funds. At present, Norman doesn’t have any in her office like Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber as one example.
At the last Joint Legislative Committee meeting, Norman was asked what barriers existed to her carrying out her duties. She said one issue was the need for more qualified staff and another was a need to strengthen existing enforcement statutes.
“The Auditor General supports any measure that aids in the achievement of our mission,” Norman told The Center Square. “The audit function could be supported by sworn law enforcement if there were instances of suspected criminal violations, when criminal justice research is necessary or when such a presence is required.”
According to the department’s website, “As the State’s independent auditor, the Auditor General provides unbiased, timely, and relevant information that the Legislature, Florida’s citizens, public entity management, and other stakeholders can use to promote government accountability and stewardship and improve government operations.”
Currently, once an entity is audited by the Florida Auditor General, they have an opportunity to respond and fix whatever issues have been found. However, if that entity does not comply, the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee can subpoena them to explain the reasons for continued noncompliance. Norman’s office lacks subpoena power and is dependent on the committee to hold noncompliant entities accountable.
One example of how sworn law enforcement officers can assist a state auditor is Ohio.
Faber, who took office in 2019, has a Special Investigations Unit available to him. According to the auditor’s website, “the mission of the SIU is to promote transparency and accountability in the use of public funds, to expose fraud and corruption where it exists, and to assist law enforcement and prosecutors in the pursuit of justice.”
In a statement sent to The Center Square, Faber’s office said that the use of sworn law enforcement officers has been vital to their mission.
“Trained law enforcement professionals who specialize in identifying, investigating and prosecuting financial crimes have led to nearly 100 criminal convictions in Ohio since Auditor Faber took office in 2019. The Special Investigations Unit has proved to be an invaluable resource in our efforts to root out public officials who lie, cheat and steal taxpayer resources.”
Since Faber took office, the Ohio Auditor’s SIU’s investigations have resulted in 97 convictions for fraud. This resulted in 168 findings for recovery for $18.3 million returned to taxpayers since 2019.