When bad things happen in local government — whether it’s stealing by employees or politicians, or just plain accounts that don’t add up, or paperwork not filed — it’s the job of the Legislative Auditor’s Office to blow the whistle.
While it is thought of as purely a state agency, its authority is actually as the public auditor for the state, and that includes local governments. As a matter of resources, of course, most audits for local government are done by local accountants on contract, but they are reviewed in the state Auditor’s Office in Baton Rouge.
On the principle that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera has launched a series of training sessions for local government employees and officials. One has been held in St. Tammany Parish recently, and another is scheduled March 1-2 in Bossier City.
The Center for Local Government Excellence will walk participants through the laws and regulations that can be complicated, particularly for smaller jurisdictions. Topics include what people might think of as basics, such as public record laws, competitive bidding and open meetings. Even so, the training is bound to be useful. That is doubly true for more obscure mandates under the Local Government Budget Act.
We think this is a constructive approach that can and should be welcomed by local politicians for their employees, but it’s also good training for elected officials. Particularly in smaller governments, the new town councilman or school board member might have had little or no formal training in what is expected of guardians of the public’s dollars.
Louisiana has a tradition of local government being subservient to the State Capitol, but, over time, the duties and revenue of local government have grown. Too little attention is paid to this sector, but the auditor’s initiative is a welcome addition.