from the inbox:
State Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission (LAAC), today released the independent financial audit of the General Assembly for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. The LAAC voted unanimously to approve the audit report and its recommendations to tighten financial controls within the legislature.
The General Assembly audit, completed by independent auditors from Ernst & Young, found that the legislature dispersed more than $327 million on operations in 2008-09, held more than $37 million in commitments, and ended the fiscal year with a $201.4 million legislative surplus.
The audit shows an unprecedented level of transparency in the spending of the General Assembly and progress being made on reforms recommended by the LAAC last year. This audit, for the first time, includes a detailed accounting of legislative expenditures, which includes spending listed by category to show the public how its tax dollars are being allocated. Additionally, last year the LAAC recommended that the expenditure process in the House be centralized through the Comptroller's Office as opposed to using individual checkbooks controlled by certain House members. Today, only a small handful of checkbooks remain; the rest were closed and those House members now make use of the centralized payment system.
The audit recommends this year that the House and Senate utilize benchmarking or other measures to determine the appropriate amount of budgetary reserves necessary. To help accomplish this recommendation, the LAAC will meet in January to try and adopt a specific policy that could then be considered by House and Senate leaders and members. Additionally, the LAAC recommends that the remaining checkbooks be eliminated and that the House and Senate enhance the financial statement close process and implement a centralized financial information and control system for the General Assembly.
"I am pleased that the LAAC has unanimously approved the audit and recommendations as set forth in this report,” said Shapiro. “While we have taken important steps to improve transparency and accountability in our legislative budget, there is more to be done. I urge the leadership of both the House and Senate to implement the recommendations from this report. It's critical that the public has confidence in knowing how their tax dollars are being spent and that there is no waste in their state government."
The LAAC was created in 1970 for the purpose of overseeing, reviewing and reporting on audits performed on the financial affairs of the General Assembly and making recommendations for improvements. The LAAC appoints a certified public accountant to audit the financial affairs of the General Assembly and its legislative service agencies. At least one audit is performed each year, with more performed as deemed necessary by the commission. Shapiro was appointed to chair the LAAC in October 2007.
The audit documents can be found at www.pahouse.com/Shapiro.
Shapiro represents the 153rd Legislative District in Montgomery County. For more information, visit www.pahouse.com/Shapiro.