Name as it appears on the ballot: Beth Wood
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.bethwoodcampaign.com
Occupation & employer: CPA/NC State Auditor – North Carolina Office of the State Auditor
Years lived in North Carolina: 65
1) Please tell us what in your record as a public official or private citizen demonstrates your ability to be an effective State Auditor. These might include career or community service—please be specific. What do you believe qualifies you for the job?
I am the only candidate running:
- Who is a CPA (33 years),
- Who has “actual” experience working in the State Auditor’s Office before being elected State Auditor, (10 Years),
- Who has “actual” experience with all the different types of audits performed by the Office of State Auditor (23 years),
- Who has taught the staff of the State Auditor’s Office and CPAs across the nation how to perform Governmental audits.
- Who has a proven track record for identifying 100s of millions of taxpayer dollars that have been wastefully spent and has resulted in the implementation of laws/changes in laws/changes in current processes (by the Governor and the General Assembly) that has stopped wasteful spending (11 Years)
- Who understands all the Divisions in the Office of the State Auditor and what is required within each.
2) What do you believe are the three most pressing issues face the State Auditor’s office? If elected, what would you do to address them?
- Given the limited staff/resources in the Office, getting the statutorily mandated audits done as efficiently as possible in order to free up the “most” resources possible to perform discretionary audits that lead to the identification of wasteful spending/use of taxpayer dollars.
- Over the course of the last 12 months I have created a Data Analytics Division in order to:
- Use big data to, more quickly and accurately, identify significant pockets of money at risk for wasteful spending/use for teams to audit,
- Implement the use of robotics to perform repetitive tasks, once performed by staff, so that current staff are freed up to perform more audits.
- Because the Office of the State Auditor has no “authority” to make state agencies/organizations fix what the Office finds, the findings in the audit reports “must” be irrefutable, meaning NO ONE can argue with the findings and have no choice but to fix the issues reported.
- Federal Standards require that “anyone” working for the State Auditor’s Office that performs audits must receive 80 hours of continuing education every 2 years. Under my Administration, Training for staff has focused on “Planning and Setting Objectives” that result in the most efficient yet impactful audits.
- The audits performed under my Administration undergo a stringent vetting process that ensures all audit objectives have been met, all findings are supported by evidence, “all” findings are reported, and the organization that was audited has the opportunity to refute the findings but only through providing evidence that actually refutes the findings, because
- Only the Governor or the General Assembly can require the corrective actions to stop wasteful spending so the work produced by this Office “has” to be irrefutable.
- Hiring and retaining qualified auditors
- Under my administration we have implemented several layers to our hiring practices which include multiple interviews as well as testing that is applicable to the position,
- I have worked with the General Assembly over the years to get salaries for the Office of State Auditor staff to be competitive with the for-profit CPA firms,
- Under my Administration, we have established expectations for each person working in the Agency and have mentored, coached and developed staff to be their best and show them how to move up to the next level.
3) To what extent should auditing be policy-driven, as opposed to the fundamental job of ascertaining whether money was spent in the way the law directed that it should be spent? In other words, when is it the Auditor’s job to recommend changes in law and policy?
- The North Carolina Constitution set up the Office of the State Auditor to perform audits, not to push/make policy. Users of the audits/investigations performed/published by the Office of the State Auditor have to be sure there are no “political/personal” biases in the work or reports that are published by the Office.
- All audits performed by the Office of the State Auditor are performed in accordance with Standards published by the federal agency, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO), and those standards require independent/objective audits and auditors to refrain from making decisions only Management/those charged with governance should be making.
- However, there have been numerous occasions when work performed by the Office of the State Auditor has been used, by management of an organization that was audited, to show laws/policies/rules that are out-of-date and no longer work as they were intended when first written.
- Additionally, there have been occasions when laws/policies/rules are too vague and too open for interpretation and again, our audits have opened the door for there to be more clarification behind the real intent of the law/policy/rule, but again this was brought about by the Users of the reports, not the Office of the State Auditor.
- Again, Users of the work performed/published by the Office of the State Auditor “must” count on the fact that the work is independent/objective and there are no personal “biases/political” agendas being pushed.
4) What areas of state spending do you believe will demand your sustained attention? Please be specific.
The State of NC spends approximately 46 Billion, of taxpayer dollars, to run the General Operations of our State. The following 3 areas will demand our sustained attention for the reasons stated:
- Education ($12 Billion of the $46 Billion) – Second largest pot of State expenditures and the needs in this area continue to be huge.
- Medicaid ($13 Billion of the $46 Billion) – the most complicated program the State administers, $3.5 Billion of the $13 Billion are State appropriations and, if wasted, these are State appropriations that cannot be used for other things, like Education.
- Transportation ($4 Billion of the $46 Billion) – The building of NC roads is spread out among 14 Divisions across the State and the functions are highly decentralized. The Agency is experiencing critical cash flow issues.
5) The Auditor’s office is expected to stay out of politics. What steps will you take to assure the public that you and your office are meeting that standard?
- I am the only candidate running that is a CPA and my license and the standards by which we perform audits require that our work be independent/objective/unbiased. I have done so, for the last 11 years so successfully, that under my Administration, the Office has earned the reputation of being nonpartisan/fair/objective in all the work that we have performed/published in that timeframe.
- Every staff member, no matter their classification, including myself, signs an “Independence Certification” annually, as well as at the beginning of each audit/investigation performed.
- Under my Administration, the Office’s policy for choosing any topic for discretionary audits are based solely on criteria which includes high risk of misuse/wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars of a significant magnitude or of an issue that would have significant impact on the citizens of North Carolina.
- Under my Administration, the Office of the State Auditor has implemented a policy that all politics are left at the door when employees come to work. We, at the Auditor’s Office, work for all citizens of NC and adherence to this policy is closely monitored.
6) What steps will you take as Auditor to build trust that the office is applying the law equally to each subject of an investigation?
The Office of the State Auditor receives approximately 300 hotline tips/allegations per year. Under my Administration, the Office has setup a protocol for the triage of all allegations. The protocol includes 2 reviews of the allegation, the preliminary evidence gathered and the recommendation (to move forward with the case or not) that comes with each case.
7) What measures will you take to recruit and retain qualified, experienced employees?
- The Office of the State Auditor recruits actively on campuses of several of our Universities. This includes my speaking to accounting classes and Accounting Societies on campus to help the students better understand the opportunities for growth and development by working with the Office of the State Auditor.
- Under my Administration the Office has developed a 30-day training for all new auditors that allows them to be trained on 2 simulation audits. This type of training is critical for the development of a good auditor.
- Additionally, given the quality of the work performed/published under my Administration and the use of budgets, deadlines and performance metrics to ensure timely work, the Office has been able to obtain raises for our audit positions so they are now competitive with CPA firms. Given our current salaries plus our work/life balance we have been able to recruit and retain qualified/experienced employees.
8) What additional measures should the State Auditor take to encourage citizens to offer information about the abuse of taxpayer dollars?
Under my Administration we have already taken steps to encourage citizens to offer information about the abuse of taxpayer dollars:
- The Office developed a phone application where citizens can report wasteful and abusive spending.
- The Office initiated the passing of a law that requires any organization, that receives grant moneys, post notification of our hotline number/email address for employees/citizens to report waste/abuse.
- We guarantee anonymity to anyone who comes forward with information about fraud, waste or abuse of taxpayer dollars who is in fear of retaliation.
9) Is there anything else you wish to address that was not included in this questionnaire?
The Office of the State Auditor is one of the most critical Offices in State Government. This Office is the “only” eyes and ears that citizens have for how their tax dollars are spent. This position should only be held by someone who has the knowledge, skills, qualifications and credentials to oversee the audits of your tax dollars. It should be held by someone who has actually performed the work the Office performs and has a track record for impactful audits with irrefutable findings. Hands down that candidate is Beth Wood, CPA.