PEMBROKE — Wasteful, unaccountable, negligent spending is more of a danger to North Carolina’s financial stability than corruption, according to the state’s auditor.
Beth Wood, state auditor since 2009, was the keynote speaker when the Pembroke Kiwanis Club met Wednesday at Sheff’s Seafood. She discussed North Carolina’s current state budget, and how she and her staff work to prevent wasteful and inefficient spending of tax dollars. She also talked about North Carolina’s bond rating.
“North Carolina is one of only 12 states to have a triple-triple A bond rating,” Wood said. “That’s the highest rating possible and is important because it will allow us to pay the lowest interest possible over the next several years on $2 billion loan payments resulting from the March 2016 statewide bond referendum.”
The state’s general operating budget for any one year is about $43 billion, Wood said. This includes $22 billion from personal income taxes and another $6 billion from sales tax. Billions of dollars in federal money also comes to the state via Medicaid, and transportation, education and health programs.
“Our job is to audit all of this money,” Wood said. “We want to make sure that nobody is wasting our tax dollars.”
Wood, a certified CPA who worked in the Office of the State Auditor for 10 years before being elected to lead the office, received a warm reception from the Kiwanians at the luncheon meeting. Club Secretary Faline Dial sparked a round of applause when she introduced Wood as the first woman ever to be elected state auditor.
“Through her work she has helped strengthen and improve state government,” Dial said. “She watches every area of state government for potential savings and smart use of taxpayers’ dollars.”
To understand the results of any audit it must be known exactly what kind of audit is being conducted, Wood said. Her department conducts financial statement audits, compliance audits, federal grant audits and performance audits.
All units of state government, the 17 members of the University of North Carolina system, and all 58 of the state’s community colleges are subjects of audits regularly carried out by her office, Wood said. An audit of clerks of court recently was conducted.
Wood has served as auditor when the state General Assembly was controlled by Democrats and by Republicans. The “current governor and General Assembly” both want to know the results of her audits, she said.
“In our findings we tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” she said. “I don’t care what side of the aisle someone is on. If someone has wasted my tax dollars they should quit.”
No one can stop her office for looking for information.
“I have subpoena power,” she said.
Medicaid is one of the revenue sources that must be carefully monitored and audited on a regular basis, Wood said.
“Medicaid is $10 billion in federal money and $4 billion in state money. I’m concerned that there are some who are supposed to be getting Medicaid that aren’t, and some who should not be receiving it are,” she said.
An inventory of contracts that have been let needs to be created to ensure taxpayer money is not wasted, Wood said. At the current time, there is no inventory of all contracts, how much the contracts cost or if the contracts are renewable.
Her department includes an investigation unit, she said. Forty cases, one-third of which are from small towns, are now pending. Those cases include complaints that officials are misusing town credit cards and that people are being told if they vote for a certain mayoral candidate they won’t have to pay their utility bills or mow their grass.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.