Mt. Vernon Register-News


April 12, 2013

Government needs to be held accountable


It would seem a reasonable concern. After all, airplanes have been hijacked by men with knives – but never by one wielding a tube of toothpaste.

Government agencies are replete with examples like these, and for decades, elected officials, political scientists, journalists and others have tried to devise ways to make the bureaucracy more navigable and accountable to those the taxpayers fund it - those the government is meant to serve.

On the accountability front, one widely heralded move was to have auditors routinely audit the bureaucracy and root out waste, fraud and abuse.

But the results have been mixed.

For example, Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland recently conducted an audit of the state’s public-funded universities.

About half of the findings were also cited in previous audits.

Often the findings aren’t exciting – but they are important.

For example the auditor general found that Chicago State University had $18.6 million sitting in a bank account – without enough insurance to cover the deposit. The auditor told school officials they needed to make sure the full deposit was fully insured.

Each audit finding is intended to make sure government is run well.

“In the real world, people would be losing their jobs if they ignored an auditor’s finding,” said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. “But once you enter that vortex called state government, it doesn’t work that way. There is absolutely no accountability or consequences for not correcting problems. Nothing aggravates me more. The reason there is no accountability is they know, no one will lose their job if they just it ignore it.”

University trustees, our governor and other leaders within government need to show those within their bureaucracies that accountability is essential.

Jobs should be on the line.

A bureaucracy is like a tube of toothpaste – it needs to be squeezed hard so nothing goes to waste.

Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at Readers can subscribe to his free political newsletter by going to ILNEWS.ORG or follow his work on Twitter @scottreeder

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