Oregon secretary of state details her to-do list of audits
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan has laid out an ambitious plan for state audits during her first year in office.
The to-do list for the state Audits Division covers aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic downturn and the Labor Day wildfires — all issues that have arisen in the past year — and several other issues.
Fagan, a former Democratic state senator, was elected Nov. 3 to the position vacated by Republican appointee Bev Clarno. Clarno completed the balance of the elected term of Republican Dennis Richardson, who died of cancer in February 2019, but she did not seek a full term.
The secretary of state has constitutional authority to conduct financial audits, which determine whether money was spent in accordance with state and federal laws. A 1987 law gives the secretary of state authority to conduct performance audits of state agencies. Auditors also are empowered to look at school districts and education service districts, which get state money.
"Unprecedented wildfires, COVID-19, and the resulting economic downturn only intensified the existing inequities burdening Oregonians in under-resourced regions and historically marginalized communities," Fagan said in her announcement. "This year's audit plan is directed at many of those most pressing issues with an eye toward building a better Oregon for everyone."
The plan was developed by Fagan and Audits Division Director Kip Memmott in consultation with Gov. Kate Brown — herself a former secretary of state — state agencies, and legislators, particularly members of the Joint Legislative Audits Committee.
Memmott said: "These audits are designed to ensure transparency of government operations and to help to build and maintain public trust through a look at both what is working well in service to the people of Oregon and what can be improved."
The list as released by Fagan:
• An analysis of Oregon's unemployment insurance program, identifying the challenges the program faced early in the pandemic and working to ensure the system will be resilient in the face of a future crisis. (The long-awaited computer modernization project by the Employment Department has been the focus of previous audits.)
• An audit of the state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution to ensure that Oregon is efficiently and equitably immunizing Oregonians while stopping the spread of the deadly virus.
• An inspection of rural water supplies and the environmental and contamination risks faced now and in the future.
• A look at domestic terrorism and ideologically motivated violent extremism in Oregon and law enforcement's ability to deal with the threat.
• An assessment of the licensing and regulation of cannabis businesses and evaluation of how licensing considerations could address historical wrongs to racial and ethnic minorities and Oregon's nine federally recognized tribes.
• An overview of the types of calls received by state and local 911 emergency communications systems and an equitable analysis of what and how public safety resources are deployed in response.
• An assessment of the state of cybersecurity in Oregon and determination of whether state agencies and local governments have effective and efficient information technology security frameworks and control structures. (This subject also has been the focus of previous audits.)
• An analysis of the performance of Oregon's mortgage interest deduction and a risk assessment of homeless services to determine how to improve coordination and distribution of services. Brown's proposed 2021-23 budget proposes to eliminate the mortgage-interest deduction that can be claimed for second homes.
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