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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau is priceless

Audits


Thank goodness for the
Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau.

The Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) is a non-partisan agency that assists the state Legislature in keeping a thorough review and oversight of state operations through objective analyses of state programs and expenditures. Audit data is compiled and presented along with recommendations to the Legislature.

One of the latest find
s by the LAB shows the cost of the state’s plan to consolidate state computer services has far surpassed its original estimate.

During April 2004, the state Department of Administration (DOA) contracted with a South Bend, Indiana accounting and consulting firm, Crowe Chizek to facilitate a project to consolidate computer servers. Seven months later, Crowe Chizek informed the DOA the consolidation project would cost approximately $12.8 million and would reduce server maintenance costs by as much as 20 percent.

Crowe Chizek’s projections were far off-base as the LAB uncovered. The DOA spent $90.9 million on server consolidation through June 2009. As the LAB reports, that is “more than seven times the initial cost estimate of $12.8 million to implement the project. Although DOA originally anticipated that it would complete server consolidation by May 2006, consolidation has been hindered by planning that did not adequately account for the project’s complexity. DOA now estimates that server consolidation will be completed in June 2010, at a total cost of $110.0 million.”

Any savings and efficiencies that may have been attained through consolidation according to the LAB have been offset by payments of $15.2 million to four contractors that were brought on to advise the state about how to operate more efficiently. The LAB reports, “Continued legislative monitoring of ongoing consolidation efforts is warranted.”

The LAB’s latest audit also discovered that while the Legislature authorized DOA to sell $36.0 million in surplus property during the 2005-07 biennium and $40.0 million during the 2007-09 biennium, only $9.6 million was sold during that four-year period.

This review of the consolidation of administrative functions is the latest example of how invaluable the LAB that has been serving since 1965 is to policymakers and the taxpayers they represent. Other audits conducted during 2009 have found the following:

 

·         Fraud and errors in Wisconsin Shares, a state child care program cost Wisconsin taxpayers $16.7 million to $18.5 million last year alone.  Problems included lack of documentation, payments during periods of ineligibility, illegal immigrants receiving benefits, and child care rings, with friends and family members paid by the state to take turns caring for each others’ children.

·         Twenty-five employees of state agencies in Wisconsin, including 15 Department of Corrections (DOC) correctional officers and correctional sergeants and 10 Department of Health Services staff each earned more than $50,000 in premium overtime in addition to their regular wages during 2008.

·         Inappropriate, excessive, and unnecessary purchases were made in the state’s program allowing state employees to use purchasing cards for state business purposes. There was not evidence of rampant fraud; however the LAB reports compliance with requirements could be improved.


Auditors possess the often thankless duty of sifting through mountains of financial data in search of waste, fraud and abuse in state government. Their task is to work diligently behind the scenes, analyzing voluminous information to determine if programs and services are effectively achieving their purpose.

As a member of the Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee, I view their recommendations to be critical in finding ways to save money, especially at a time when tax revenues are shrinking. Now more than ever as we attempt to slowly crawl out of a recession, the work of the LAB is essential.

I commend the LAB that, in my view, is the finest group of auditors in the country. Truly, the LAB is a gem of state government.

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