Attorney General, State Auditor Clash Over Mandatory Audit

Tuesday, January 5th 2016, 4:41 pm
By: Grant Hermes

After being told in November that his office was in line for a mandatory audit, Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office said it will be using an auditor of its choice, instead of the one elected by voters.

According to a letter sent Nov. 10, State Auditor Gary Jones told the Office of the Attorney General he was planning on beginning a routine audit in January of 2016. The letter also asked the OAG to provide information about the office and what risks it may be facing by the end of 2015.

Then, in a letter sent to State Auditor Gary Jones on the Dec 31st deadline, the OAG said it had already started the hiring process for a different auditor and told Jones it removes "the necessity of your office of conducting the audit." 

Finally, on Jan. 4, Jones responded to the OAG, “While it may be an administrative decision… to spend additional funds on a separate audit,” the letter read, “it does not obviate the statutory requirement…” of his office.

“The citizens of Oklahoma, through the constitution and the statutes, have elected the state auditor's office to audit state agencies and I believe that's one of our responsibilities and we plan on fulfilling that responsibility,” Jones said.

According to state law, the auditor's office is required to examine the accounts of any agency that collects, manages or disperses state money.

Jones said it all started after he made some general statements to the media when reports surfaced the Attorney General had hired more staff and moved to new offices in Tulsa that nearly tripled the rent; all while other agencies were being forced to make cuts.

“I said you'd have to look at what it was for and whether this was for legitimate purposes and I made an additional comment that in these times we ought to be frugal,” Jones said Tuesday. 

First Assistant AG, Mike Hunter did respond in a statement on Tuesday about their choice to look for an outside auditor.

“It is common for state agencies to seek independent audits,” he said. “Reasonable minds could infer a conflict on the behalf of the auditor, given his recent critical comments to the media about this agency after he suggested the audit.”

Jones however said it is not common for agencies to use auditors outside his office for required audits, adding there were only a handful of agencies that use non-state auditors for certain accounts.

The OAG also pointed to an article on on Tuesday, which highlighted Jones’ social media posts in which “Jones speaks his mind on social media and walks a fine line between critiquing politicians and being one.”

“Auditors and accountants are guided by their professional code of ethics to avoid conflicts of interest in the performance of their duties,” Hunter said. “An independent audit will provide the same information about the finances of the Attorney General’s Office and the audit will be made available to the public and the state auditor after its completion.”

Jones said he expects his office to begin its audit in the coming weeks, unless the OAG can provide an exception or alternative interpretation to the statute.