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Legislative Audit Commission

Minutes

August 23, 2001

Members Present:

Representative Steve Dehler Senator Bill Belanger
Representative Ruth Johnson Senator Sheila Kiscaden
Representative Dan Larson Senator Ann H. Rest
Representative Mary Jo McGuire Senator Claire Robling
Representative Wes Skoglund Senator Jim Vickerman
Senator Deanna Weiner

Members absent:

Representative Peggy Leppik Senator Dave Johnson
Representative Dan McElroy Senator Thomas Neuville
Representative Michelle Rifenberg

Since not enough members were present for a quorum, at 1:15 P.M., Senator Ann Rest convened the meeting as a subcommittee, and then as a full committee once a quorum was reached at 1:25 P.M.

Senator Rest referred to the agenda and indicated there would also be some discussion at the end of the meeting regarding Legislative Audit Commission meeting dates this fall, including a proposal for a full-day retreat, at which time a number of topics would be discussed in greater length. Other people would possibly be invited to attend also. Retreat topics would include:

  • the overall mission of the Legislative Audit Commission;
  • workplans;
  • review of past LAC relationships with the Legislature; and
  • review of the appointment process for Legislative Auditor and Deputy Legislative Auditors for the Financial Audit and Program Evaluation Division.

Senator Rest reported she had received a request from Senator Wiener regarding some findings in the Office of the Legislative Auditor financial audits. She asked members to look over the financial audit cover letters and findings as they are released and suggested they discuss the frequency of audits at the upcoming retreat.

Senator recognized Roger Brooks, Deputy Legislative Auditor for the Program Evaluation Division. Mr. Brooks gave an overview of questions listed in the evaluation proposal for a study of teacher recruitment and introduced Jo Vos, project manager. Ms. Vos reviewed the studies recently conducted on this topic and answered questions from members.

A motion was made by Representative Wes Skoglund and seconded by Senator Wiener, that the OLA not distribute the summary document until it can be expanded with additional data that will be available later in the year. Motion passed.

Senator Rest recognized Mr. Win Borden, who represents the Minnesota School Counselors Association. Mr. Borden expressed concern for the low ratio of counselors to students (1 to 998) and the need to hire more counselors in the education system to serve students and families.

Commission members affirmed the work of the Legislative Auditor's Office, indicating they believe reports issued are looked at more closely than others presented to the Legislature because of the office's credibility to provide nonpartisan, middle-ground research and factual information. Legislative Auditor James Nobles reiterated the office's role of being instruments of accountability and not just research.

Mr. Brooks then gave an update on current studies: Those on welfare, pollution control, recycling, and the two on electronic government are on schedule; the health benefits study has been delayed due to negotiations still under way. Jo Vos and Valerie Bombach will be working on that study and will hold a roundtable discussion at 3:00 p.m. today. The study on unemployment insurance is about to begin and will be a smaller study. Mr. Brooks also noted that several studies on welfare have been done, and that a review of existing research information will be included in a section of the current study.

Senator Rest indicated the next agenda item was a discussion of legislative riders affecting the OLA and commission and recognized Mr. Nobles. Mr. Nobles indicated three reports would be conducted by the Financial Audit Division: state agency barter agreements; an audit of the Department of Revenue's non-filer initiative, and an accounting of light rail expenditures. Mr. Nobles introduced Claudia Gudvangen, Deputy Legislative Auditor for the Financial Audit Division. Ms. Gudvangen indicated that completing the work required by the riders will necessitate delaying other audit work.

Mr. Nobles indicated the other two riders relate to the selection of program evaluation topics: Senator Rest indicated it is important the Legislature request the Commission consider topics, rather than mandate them. Senator Weiner suggested OLA prepare an estimate of the costs of these riders to present to legislative leadership next session.

Mr. Nobles noted that the Legislature had approved the requested budget, except for three additional staff requested. He suggested the retreat also address a review of what OLA is and how it does its work; intended impact of OLA work; program evaluation topic selection process; overview of the financial audit process and its increasing focus on information/computer systems audits; inviting commissioners of key departments and other legislative leaders. Members are to inform Senator Rest of additional topics they would like to see addressed.

Mr. Nobles noted that some of the accounting principles governing financial statements have changed and will be implemented by the Department of Finance.

The meeting adjourned at 3:10 P.M.

_______________________________________
Senator Ann H. Rest, Chair

_______________________________________
Barbara Wing, Acting Recording Secretary

 

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