OPINION: Audit reaffirms need for govt. transparency

Published 8:47 am Saturday, July 14, 2018

A recent audit of the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts found a “pervasive lack of accountability,” according to Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon, and reaffirms the needs for transparency and checks and balances when it comes to government agencies.

Harmon released the scathing audit Thursday, which included various serious findings pertaining to spending, bookkeeping, conflicts of interest and more within the department.

More details on the findings can be found at tinyurl.com/kyaudit

Some notable findings, as reported by Kentucky Today, included:

— The chief justice shares administrative policymaking decisions with the other members of the state Supreme Court even though that authority appears to rest solely with the Chief Justice on administrative matters. These Court meetings are not open to the public because AOC has no open meetings policy.

— The AOC’s conflict of interest policy is vague and open-ended. Unlike the Executive Branch, conflicts of interest are not specifically prohibited or subject to mandatory consequences under AOC’s policy.

— The vast majority of credit card expenses by the chief justice and the AOC director that auditors examined lacked any supporting documentation. There was no pre-approval or subsequent review of credit card activity by anyone other than the cardholder, and no cardholder agreements were required for key officials issued a credit card.

The 214-page report followed a 13-month examination at the request of AOC Director Laurie Dudgeon. The request was made after news reports about surplus property and sales and other issues raised about the agency, Kentucky Today reported.

The AOC is the operational arm of Kentucky’s Judicial Branch.

Overall, the report determined the agency didn’t have “sufficient policies in place to provide transparency and oversight.”

That should be of great concern to the public, and is why audits of this nature are absolutely vital to ensuring public trust.

In Clark County, the benefit of audits has been proven recently when it pertains to the Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation department and a former employee who was indicted for stealing more than $15,000. There were also concerns with credit card debts and other less-serious but still pertinent findings.

Locally, the audit not only eventually led to charges in the case, but positive changes in the form of new policies and procedures to ensure money is handled appropriately and efficiently.

We hope this is the case in the recent AOC audit. We would like to see policies and procedures established to create more public trust concerning how taxpayer money is spent through the office and that transparency is ensured.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board. The board is comprised of publisher Michael Caldwell and managing editor Whitney Leggett. To inquire about a meeting with the board, contact Caldwell at 759-0095.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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