Focusing on Government Accountability
For a government to be successful, it must continually reevaluate current practices and be willing to make needed changes to its own programs and services. To do this, the Legislature needs to create and maintain accountability standards and promote transparency throughout all government services.
One way we do this is by analyzing the work of the 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.
Every legislative session the Legislature is presented evaluations conducted by the OLA. This session the OLA will present evaluations on:
• Helping Communities Recover from Natural Disasters – When communities are hit by floods, tornadoes, or other natural disasters, state government helps them recover. In contrast with the initial emergency response, recovery efforts include assistance to rebuild homes and businesses and replace damaged roads and public buildings, among other things.
• Child Protection Screening – It is the policy of the State of Minnesota “to protect children whose health or welfare may be jeopardized through physical abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse” (Minnesota Statutes 2010, 626.556, subd. 1). The state’s child protection system is intended to fulfill the policy when a child’s welfare is threatened by maltreatment by an individual responsible for the child’s care.
• Local Governments – The Minnesota Constitution grants the Legislature authority to create, organize, consolidate, and dissolve local government units and their functions. Currently, Minnesota relies on 87 counties, 339 Independent School Districts, 854 cities, 1,785 townships, and numerous special and regional districts to coordinate and deliver services locally.
• Fiscal Note Process – Fiscal notes are a tool to help legislators and others understand the budgetary impacts of proposed legislation. During the 2011 legislative session, legislators used some estimates of fiscal impact generated by parties outside state government that raised questions about the credibility and objectivity of fiscal notes prepared by state agencies.
The OLA will make recommendations on needed changes in each of these areas. It is then up to the Legislature and Governor to create policy to carry out those recommendations. If you would like to see the OLA reports, visit their website at http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/.
This session we will also take a look at creating the Minnesota Accountable Government Innovation and Collaboration (MAGIC) Act. The Act would develop and test alternative models for service delivery by counties that are focused on performance measures and outcomes. We hope this will allow counties to think outside the box on alternative ways to offer their services.
Over the past year, Gov. Dayton has taken many steps to reform our government and improve the way the state does business. This has lead to a new plan to save money by detecting and tracking down Medicaid fraud, making continuous improvements in how the state does business so taxpayers get the best service for the best price, and several other initiatives. Visit the Governor’s website at http://mn.gov/governor/initiatives/better-government/ for more information on his work.
I encourage everyone to follow legislative work. Visit the Senate website (http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/) to stay informed on the legislative issues you are concerned about.
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.