New agency audit panel holds first meeting

CARSON CITY - A new internal audit system will help ensure that the state gets all the tax dollars it's owed before Nevadans are tapped for more taxes, Gov. Kenny Guinn said Tuesday.

Guinn made the comment while chairing the first meeting of an executive-branch audit panel approved by the 1999 Legislature at his request.

The governor noted an earlier legislative audit showed agencies had failed for various reasons to collect millions of dollars in taxes due to the state. He said the new audit team can follow up to make sure the money is flowing into state coffers now.

''Before we ever talk to our taxpayers and everybody else about what (revenues) we need and what we don't need, we better be sure we're collecting what we have coming,'' Guinn said.

In his state of the state speech at the start of the year, the first-term GOP governor and former utility and banking executive promised a full review of government operations to improve efficiency and to collect data on Nevada's revenue needs.

The data will help state lawmakers decide in 2001 whether to broaden Nevada's casino- and sales-dependent tax base.

State Controller Kathy Augustine, also on the audit panel, questioned whether the executive-branch audits would duplicate the work by the legislators' auditors.

But Guinn said the executive-branch team can do follow-up reviews to ensure that agencies make changes recommended by legislative auditors, rather than wait four or five years for the next legislative review.

''It's really the job of the executive branch to clean up its own house and do the right thing,'' he added.

Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, another member of the new audit panel, said she was amazed that the executive branch of Nevada government didn't have a unified audit program until now.

But Hunt said the new program would help in ''closing the gap'' and creating a system ''that should have been in place long ago.''

Becky Moody, named by Guinn to head the committee's audit crew, outlined an ambitious schedule of reviews within several government agencies and divisions.

The reviews will focus on programs in education, forestry, prisons, health services, parole and probation, child and family services, and youth community services.

But Moody said the audit schedule is flexible and can be revised if Guinn and other committee members want to look at something else.

Guinn said flexibility was vital, adding, ''We want quality, not quantity.''

The governor pushed for the internal audit program as part of his campaign promise to run state government as a business. His initial proposal was to spend $4.6 million over two years for the program. Instead, lawmakers approved $1.9 million.


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