Accountability, openness are keys to government success

Accountability and openness are key aspects to a good government. One way our state government achieves this transparency is by publicly evaluating our programs, services, and government entities to ensure they are a true benefit to the state.
The entity that conducts these evaluations is the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA). The OLA is a professional, nonpartisan audit and evaluation office that provides the Legislature, state agencies, and the public with reports. Through these reports, the OLA seeks to strengthen accountability and promote good management in government.
The OLA is not just a tool for legislators; it should also be used by the people of Minnesota. I encourage you to visit the OLA website to see what they have been working on. To do so, go to www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/. Recent reports from the OLA include:
• Environmental Review and Permitting – The OLA found that environmental reviews in Minnesota do not always meet important objectives and state agencies lack adequate data to measure the timeliness of their environmental reviews and priority permits. The report calls for better data to measure the timeliness of environmental reviews and priority permits.
• Governance of Transit in the Twin Cities Region – Findings from the OLA show that the region’s governance structure for transit is complex and fragmented, with overlapping responsibilities among numerous organizations. The report recommends that reform start by changing the membership of the Metropolitan Council to include a mix of elected officials from the region and members appointed by the Governor.
• Renewable Energy Development Fund – The OLA found that the allocation of money from the fund has become fragmented, resulting in concerns with administration
and oversight of projects paid for by the fund. The report recommends changes to clarify the fund’s purpose, strengthen accountability, and improve the fund’s impact.

A bi-partisan commission of six members from the House of Representatives and six from the Senate (equally divided between the majority and minority parties), called the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC), has been meeting to choose which topics the OLA should focus on in 2011. Included in their list of possible topics are three of my suggestions. I would like the OLA to look at the cost and administration of standardized testing, early childhood education program costs and benefits and the delivery of autism therapy in Minnesota.
The selection of topics is also open to the public. The OLA is open to any suggestions you may have. Visit http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/hotline.htm for information on how to suggest an audit or evaluation. Included in the LAC’s possible topics are two suggestions from citizens – a study on our property tax system and St. Peter mental health treatment programs.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions about any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.

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Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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