State Auditor candidate Rep. Mark Miloscia (D) and Secretary of State candidate Sen. Jim Kastama (D) are unhappy with the decision by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) to advise agencies to not comply with a state requirement to undergo a quality management assessment. Rep. Miloscia and Sen. Kastama have asked the Attorney General’s Office to review OFM’s action and provide an official opinion on the legality of the decision.

In a press release yesterday Rep. Miloscia charged (in-part):

“State Rep. Mark Miloscia sent a letter today to Gov. Chris Gregoire criticizing her administration’s attempt to disregard a state law that requires all agencies, boards, and commissions to submit to independent assessments through the Washington State Quality Awards program.

‘No one and no state agency is above the law,’ Miloscia (D-Federal Way) said in his letter.  ‘This improper directive exceeds the authority granted to the executive branch and governor in the Washington State Constitution and is contrary to both the spirit and the letter of RCW 43.17.390.’

In a May 21 memorandum, Marty Brown, Director of the state Office of Financial Management, told all agency directors and other state officials that ‘due to lack of available funds, state agencies are not required to perform an independent assessment of their quality management system during the 2011-13 biennium.’

According to Miloscia, the OFM memo directly contradicts a state law which declares that each ‘state agency shall, within available funds, develop and implement a quality management, accountability, and performance system to improve the public services it provides.’

The OFM memo also flagrantly violates the will of the Legislature as expressed on the last day of the 2012 session, Miloscia said.

In the final hours of the 2012 Legislative Session, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly by bipartisan acclamation for a Miloscia budget amendment that deleted an attempt to suspend the audit requirement during this biennium. The governor’s office had pushed for the proposed audit suspension.

‘Given that your administration recognized during the budget discussions that a change in the law was needed to suspend the audit requirements, what has changed since the supplemental budget was enacted that suddenly authorizes your staff to suspend the law now?’ Miloscia asked in his letter to the governor . . .

Miloscia said it is ironic that the administration is using funding concerns as a reason to suspend audits.

Miloscia and Senator Jim Kastama have submitted a request for an Attorney General Opinion (AGO) to determine if Brown’s memo contradicts the requirements in the performance audits statutes.

‘The fact is that performance audits and quality management actually saves tax dollars and allows government to be run more efficiently,’ said Miloscia. ‘To suspend these critical processes is counterproductive and a direct slap at taxpayers.’”

Rep. Miloscia’s budget amendment to restore the requirement for agencies to conduct the quality assessments passed on a voice vote. Here is video of the floor debate on the amendment:

(Click here for video)

Yesterday the Attorney General’s Office responded to Rep. Miloscia’s and Sen. Kastama’s request for a formal and informal opinion on OFM’s actions saying they would have an official response by mid August.

The AGO opinion could have huge implications going forward. Since 2005, 44 bills have been signed into law with the phrase “within available funds.” An additional 67 bills have been enacted during that time period with the phrase “within available resources” (there may be overlap between these bills).

It will be interesting to see what, if any, distinction the Attorney General’s Office makes between legislative directives that say “within available funds/resources” and “if funding available.”


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured photo credit: Mel B.]