Some Jackson County legislators say they welcome a state audit of such things as procurements and contracts, but they also expressed a degree of sticker shock this week.
The state auditor’s office began looking at the county’s COMBAT program – Community Based Anti-Drug Tax – in January and now is starting to look more broadly at county operations.
“The COMBAT audit is still in the fieldwork phase,” Todd Schuler, Kansas City area audit manager for the Missouri State Auditor's office, told county legislators on Tuesday.
The COMBAT audit is expected to cost $35,000 to $50,000, and the wider look at county operations is expected to cost $200,000 to $500,000.
That second estimate caught legislators’ attention. Legislator Scott Burnett, D-Kansas City, said officials had been told to expect a cost of about $175,000.
“I don’t want to spend half a million dollars on this, and I don’t think any of us anticipated that,” he said.
Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, agreed but added that this is new territory for the county.
“We’ve never had a clean outside audit before,” she said.
Pam Allison of the state auditor’s office said she would take those concerns to her boss.
The audit has been a long time in coming. Legislators and County Executive Frank White Jr. asked State Auditor Nicole Galloway for an audit in early 2018, and she announced last April that her office would do that. In November, Schuler told legislators that the auditor’s office was getting ready to start with the $24-million-a-year COMBAT program, which is a quarter-cent countywide sales tax that funds a wide range of programs to curb violence and drug use.
Galloway said citizens can call the auditor’s whistleblower hotline at 1-800-347-8597 or go to www.auditor.mo.gov and use that site to fill out a form or send an email. The auditor’s office also accepts concerns anonymously at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.
The state auditor is looking at the years 2017 and 2018.
“Almost all of the audits we do are performance audits,” Allison said.
The auditor’s office hasn’t given a timeline for when its work would be done or when its reports are released to the public.
“We could have multiple audits that we issue over time,” Schuler said.