Bates proposes to cut budgets of agencies with repeat audit problems

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By Megan Poinski

Cutting the budgets of agencies that have problems with waste, poor policies, and lack of adequate controls will spur them to fix the problems more quickly, said Del. Gail Bates, R-Howard.

Del. Gail Bates

Del. Gail Bates presents her bill that would allow the General Assembly to cut budgets of agencies with too many repeat audit findings.

Bates, a new member of the Joint Audit Committee, has proposed a bill that would allow budget committees to withhold up to 5% of an agency’s funds if there are at least three repeated findings on the regular audit reports done every three years by the Office of Legislative Audits. Once those findings have been addressed to the satisfaction of auditors, Bates said the withheld funds could be released.

Bates said she was surprised to see how many state agencies have wide-ranging and often repeated financial control issues.

“We’re at a time where we’re looking at getting additional money from taxpayers, and there are agencies that don’t have their house in order,” Bates said.

According to her calculations, there are 38 state agencies that have had three or more repeated findings in their last audits. There are findings that have come up in audits time and time again.

They include the Developmental Disabilities Administration’s failure to follow up on federal fund reimbursement claims; the Child Support Enforcement Administration’s failure to follow up on suspending driver’s licenses of parents owing child support; and lack of adequate accounting controls over money from the Boards of Nursing and Pharmacy.

Bates said that it is important that government agencies operate smoothly and with accountability. Agencies often promise auditors and legislators on the Joint Audit Committee that they will fix problems.

“But we’re not putting enough pressure on them to do what’s right,” Bates said.

To write her bill, Bates worked closely with the Office of Legislative Audits to make sure that the language would be effective. She said that it wouldn’t cause any extra work for the state – the Office of Legislative Audits follows up on their reports. It may save the state some money in the long run, she said.

Bates brought her bill before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, where many of her colleagues lauded her for bringing the issue to the forefront. Del. Barbara Robinson, D-Baltimore City, said that she had been interested in putting together a study to see how often agencies did not remedy issues brought up in audits.

The bill’s fiscal and policy note, written by analysts from the Department of Legislative Services, says the bill may be problematic. Sometimes, auditors find problems because departments have limited budgets – like a finding that would require a department to hire another employee that it cannot afford. If an agency’s budget is cut, the analysis says, it will have more problems coming up with the finances to fix the problem.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Dale McNamee

    It’s about time !!!

  2. Mary Peitersen

    Bravo Delegate Bates!

  3. abby_adams

    While there maybe some tweaks necessary to Del Bates bill, the question must be asked; how can the legislature demand more $$ from overburdened taxpayers to fund agencies that repeatedly fail accountability? The state legislature must realize given the past demands for more revenue only to see those $$ not put to their intended use has only alerted us to take a closer look at our state budget. Increasing the budget year after year while crying poverty to the populace is falling on deaf ears & empty pockets.

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