Activists and TeaParty members in other Florida Counties are aware of FiscalRangers.
We just got a query from one County activist group asking how they can stop corruption in their County. They listed a number of officials and issues, so here is what I sent them, and I expect to talk to them later.
The Florida Grand Jury published a big report on Corruption in Florida last December and Pam Bondi has done nothing to market it to the legislature to get the recommendations implemented, even though her Attorney General Dept. runs the Grand Jury investigations.
The Florida Auditor General has no “resources” to initiate citizen requests for audits. They mostly focus on CPA type financial and regulatory compliance audits, and not audits for efficiency, effectiveness or to detect and fix corruption. Almost all local government oversight is left up to local County agencies and officials.
The legislative Audit Committee will not initiate citizen requests for audits, which are sent to the Auditor General, BUT they will do so if asked by a legislator. So, you need to have a legislator request an audit like what you want, and the AG may do it . But, the problem with the Auditor General is they only have CPA’s, not Certified Fraud Examiners or Certified Internal Auditors, thus really don’t have the skills I would want them to have.
There is no Florida "audit" or oversight agency authorized to initiate performance audits of either State or County level agencies and programs. Florida State has over 1500 Special Districts and no department has authority to initiate audits of them (water districts, hospital districts, CRA's, etc.)
At the local level, see if the County Court Clerk for the County has an internal auditor, and whether they would initiate something. Keep peppering them with details on your concerns, plus copies to the County Board members and County manager. Determine if the School District has an auditor and review their reports for quality.
County governments have poor oversight on non-financial issues. They can get awards for how pretty and accurate their annual financial reports (CAFR's) are, but there might not be any reports showing efficiency, effectiveness or oversight to prevent corruption. In Lake County, the controller and "auditor" are in the Court Clerks office and neither has authority to go into the County government or other Constitutional offices and review internal operations to improve efficiency, etc. In corporations over $200-million, they usually have one or more internal auditors with a full charter to review any records or interview any employees and initiate audits on their own.
Search the internet for public internal audit reports by local governments on the issue you are concerned with. For instance, you might find just one Florida Auditor General performance audit on the specific function (like CRA's), and it will give you ideas of what system procedures should exist in your local departments to prevent fraud, waste & abuse. it is my opinion that most local government officials and staff have no clue how to implement fraud detection and efficiency tracking systems like business has, so you have to find articles of screwups elsewhere to point out local improvements are needed.
Research the corruption in Boca Raton and Palm Beach County. It was so bad the citizens led a referendum to create an independent Inspector General, who is now issuing some reports and has authority to initiate investigations in all the cities, school districts as well as County operations.
Try to initiate getting a petition to create a similar Inspector General for your County.
If the targets of your questions get federal funds, then you could find out which department they get funds from, and send complaints to the Inspector General for that Federal Department.
You might also create a blog like I did at FiscalRangers.com , and report this stuff in the blog with copies to all elected officials. Then give public input at public meetings and they start listening to you. I have been doing it for six years. I also send copies to about 30 press members – in the County, in the nearby major TV market (Orlando) and also to key press people (print, tV and online blogs) in Tallahassee. This has helped start stories, such as several articles all over Florida about our initiative to reform the North Lake County Hospital District and then get HB-1299 passed to reform it. That bill was signed last Friday by Gov. Scott.
If there are Florida government committees of appointed officials, send email copies of articles to them. I did that with Gov. Scott’s Commission to review the Hospital Districts in Florida, and several of my suggestions made it into their recommendations (and into HB-1299).
Also, if you can get Tea party or other public groups to attend a key local government meeting like County Board meetings or the annual meeting of the County legislators forum, with signs, etc. – it gets on the TV and also shows officials they can’t keep avoiding your issue.
Attend Tea Party and other groups and give presentations, with a list of actions for them, such as three questions to ask politicians running for office this year on local corruption examples and what they would do to fix it. Video them, and post it on websites or YouTube, so you have it in case they do not follow through.
Elect smarter officials. It is hard to get an official who is a high school graduate to spend time to understand governance issues, etc. Many don't even read documents given to them by staff. The more educated the official is, the less they might be open to corruption plus they are used to reading professional reports and would understand your issues better. If they have a Master's degree and some type of professional certification or license, that is even better, because they have been exposed to ethics policies, etc.
The key is to keep bringing up your recommendations publicly – using public input, website, blog, emails, Facebook page, send to press, send to elected officials, get people to attend meeting with signs and give public input. Once they know you are watching and asking questions, some officials might start backing your efforts to improve transparency, accountability and oversight.
I even got the local County Board to hire outside auditors to review the local EMS rather than use an inexperienced auditor in the Court Clerk’s office.
You can call me at anytime to discuss this.
Lake County Fiscal Rangers
Chief Fiscal Watchdog
Volunteers Searching for Ways to Improve Local Government Fiscal Management, Efficiency & Effectiveness
PO Box 1042
Tavares, FL 32778
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