Accountability Needed in W.Va.

For three years in a row, West Virginia’s Department of Administration missed deadlines for submitting an audit required by the federal government. Who was penalized? Every public college in the state.

Because of the late audits, institutions of higher learning were told they would receive federal reimbursements for student aid only after the money had been handed out. College officials said last summer that should not hamper disbursements of aid funds, but the penalty clearly made life more difficult for administrators.

DOE action, known in the trade as “heightened cash monitoring,” also affects other federal funding for colleges and universities. For one thing, it could delay implementation of some new programs.

What happened? There have been various explanations during the three years. One is that state agencies were late in submitting financial information needed for the Department of Administration to compile the DOE-mandated audit.

State officials say they believe the audit will be submitted on time this year.

Legislators have been told of a plan to spur all involved to get the work done on time. It is a bill that would require state agencies to turn in information required for the report by Oct. 31 of each year. That should give the administration department plenty of time to finalize the audit.

Agencies missing the deadline would be fined $100 for every day past the deadline that they fail to turn in their financial information. The fines could be waived if it is determined there are extenuating circumstances.

And the proposal calls for annual training on how to get all the necessary information together.

So, let us get this straight: State employees and officials not doing their jobs would not be punished at all. Instead, their agencies would have to pay “fines” using, of course, taxpayer dollars.

Well, that should do the trick! Please pardon our sarcasm. But when we hear of one more bureaucratic reaction to a problem in government, it is difficult not to become a bit harsh.

Gov. Jim Justice had a better idea when he heard about the problem. “Heads will roll,” he said.

Why not? Why not hold people accountable for getting their jobs done? Legislators ought to scrap their bill — which would accomplish nothing but to transfer a few dollars from one state account to another — and ensure the governor has the authority to hold state employees and officials accountable.