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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bill requires annual checks of agencies’ work

By Rebecca Cook Associated Press

OLYMPIA – Hoping to inspire more public trust in government, the state House on Wednesday passed a bill to require annual performance audits of state agencies.

Performance audits are supposed to identify the good and the bad in state government – programs that are redundant, inefficient, wasteful or ineffective, as well as programs that are working.

Mentioning performance audits can prompt snores from even hardened policy wonks in Olympia. But Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, has been persistently passionate about the issue for years. He said it’s all about trust.

“The people of Washington want government accountability and improved performance from us,” Miloscia said. “The public wants to trust government. This bill builds trust with our citizens.”

His bill orders the elected state auditor to hire independent contractors to do annual performance audits of state agencies. A panel of citizens will work with the auditor and produce a yearly report card grading state agencies. That report will be posted on the Internet.

House Bill 1064 also includes guaranteed funding for performance audits, about $1.2 million a year.

Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman said he doesn’t think the bill would take the wind out of the performance audit measure he’s sponsoring, Initiative 900.

“It’s an infinitesimal baby step toward the general direction of accountability,” Eyman said Wednesday about Miloscia’s bill. “I-900 is the real deal.”

He complained the House bill doesn’t give state Auditor Brian Sonntag enough independence and includes only voluntary local government audits instead of the mandatory local audits in his initiative. Local governments would have to pay for their audits under this bill.

But Sonntag said the bill, while not perfect, is a great big step in the right direction.

“It’s a good bill and I support it,” said Sonntag, a Democrat who has long lobbied for the power to audit the performance of state agencies. “I think (citizens) are going to notice some very visible results.”

The bill goes next to the state Senate.

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