State Auditor Suzanne Bump & Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce

Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump was the keynote speaker at last Tuesday’s Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast which was held at the Tewksbury Country Club. Here is some of what Auditor Bump had to say:

She began by quoting Barney Frank’s definition of “government” – it’s the “things we do together.” The best thing about serving in government from her perspective is to be able to “fix things that have gone off track” because by finding the causes of delays and inefficiencies, you can make government better.

Traditionally, the state auditor “followed the money”; under Suzanne Bump, the office still does that but also is focused on how government might work better. A particular area of scrutiny is government spending “in areas where there’s the greatest risk of things going awry.” She cited dental care under Mass Health as an example. By scrutinizing the data, auditors in her office identified a number of pediatric dentists who were providing unnecessary dental care to children and then billing the state for it. Because the Auditor’s office put a stop to this, not only is the state’s cost of health care reduced but children are spared the discomfort and risk of unneeded dental procedures.

Last year, the Auditor’s office began closely reviewing business tax credits. They found that the Commonwealth forgoes $2 billion in revenue each year because of these credits, but only $1 billion of these credits have any way of measuring success. Bump said no one is looking over the shoulder of business nor is there any way for the state to recoup its investment if the business entity does not deliver as promised. She hopes that her efforts will lead to reform that allows reimbursement to the state.

Auditor Bump cited the Merrimack Educational Collaborative as an example of the new approach employed in her office. Not only did her auditors detect the outrageous expenditures by that entity, but by looking at several other similar collaboratives, they were able to assess how the entire system was working. Although MEC was “an egregious example of abuse” similar things were happening at other collaboratives so now remedial legislation that provides school committees with more oversight has been proposed and enacted. She cited this as an example of looking at the big picture and not just the bookkeeping details.

Auditor Bump closed by sharing an upcoming theme of her office: stricter auditing of non-profits. She said that because of an erosion of state agency staffs, it’s tougher and tougher to monitor the expenditures of non-profit service providers. State employees who oversee contractors are not bureaucratic fat; they’re an essential element to the efficient delivery of services. Cutting those employees squanders tax dollars in the long run because no one is watching the providers very effectively so much money is wasted. “If the state can’t pay for program oversight, it can’t pay for the service” was Bump’s message. The Auditor closed by saying that money well spent by government retains the “consent of the governed” and keeps thing working as they should.