Former State Rep. Andrew Sorrell will soon be taking over as Alabama's State Auditor, and he has big ideas for growing that office.
Sorrell is taking the reins from Jim Zeigler, who lost the republican primary for Secretary of State to the eventual victor, Wes Allen.
In recent years, there have been several attempts to introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish the state auditor position. In the 2022 regular session, State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) introduced a bill to repeal the office. It passed in the Senate but failed in the House.
In an appearance on NewsTalk 93.1's "News & Views" with Joey Clark, Sorrell laid out his plans to transform the office and allow it to develop new powers and capabilities in the state.
According to Sorrell, the auditor's office needs legislative approval for his office to generate reports on fiscal waste in the state, as is done in states like Mississippi.
"One of the things I want to do as auditor, I want to request that the legislature give me the power and authority to investigate state government and bring them a report on where we can save money," Sorrell said. "And I need them to take those suggestions and actually implement them.
"The auditor used to have the power to actually do the financial audits for the municipalities, the counties, all of the state agencies, and all that stuff; that was stripped away by the Democrats back in about 1940. The auditor, to my knowledge, in Alabama has never had the power to run reports and say, 'this is how we could save money in Alabama,' and that's one of the things I think we are missing.
Bills to remove the auditor's office are typically introduced because the position has had its authority significantly diminished in recent decades. Sorrell intends for the Legislature to grow the powers of the office to investigate financial crimes involving government money.
"We don't do the audits in the Alabama auditor's office anymore," Sorrell continued. "It's done by the examiners of public accounts. So really, the only thing left for the state auditor in Alabama to do is the property audits, and I want to do a good job with that as well; it's over a billion dollars of state-owned property that we need to track, but that's already a duty. I want additional duties. We've got the bandwidth for it.
"We don't have a government accountability division at all in the state auditor's office. We don't have an investigation division. And yes, our local DAs, our Attorney General investigate white-collar crime, but in Mississippi, they have what I call CPAs [Certified Public Accountants] with a gun. They have 24 uniformed officers who have been through law enforcement training, but their focus is on financial crimes only, and they're experts at it, and I just think those people are qualified to handle these complex financial cases. When people start stealing money from the government, some of them are very, very clever about how they do it, and it takes trained CPAs to be able to investigate and find out what actually happened."
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