Michigan House Republicans
Rep. Bierlein: Auditor General cut would send horrible message on transparency
RELEASE|March 27, 2024

State Rep. Matthew Bierlein today criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent proposal to drastically reduce funding for the nonpartisan Office of the Auditor General (OAG), which has identified mismanagement and inefficiencies in its reviews of state agencies and programs.

“This office is a tremendous resource for people and taxpayers throughout the state who want to know programs and departments within state government are working as intended,” said Bierlein, of Vassar. “It is extremely troubling that on the heels of multiple bad performance reviews, the governor is pushing to limit what this office would get in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. That’s not rooted in government transparency. It’s a poor attempt to project better imagery.”

Numerous audits by the OAG in recent years have exposed deep-rooted problems within the Whitmer administration. A series of five audits in 2020 and wrapped up in December of last year helped expose billions of dollars of fraud and improper payments by Whitmer’s Unemployment Insurance Agency during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The office also identified unreported deaths in long-term care facilities during COVID-19 orders, found that the Department of Education did not ensure contracted school staff went through required fingerprinting and criminal background checks, uncovered a significant backlog in case investigation at the Department of Civil Rights, revealed that the Department of Transportation has been inefficient with both road funding dollars and inspections of critical hospital infrastructure, and more.

Auditor General Doug Ringler recently sent a letter to House and Senate leaders explaining how a 28% funding reduction as planned by the governor would dramatically impact the OAG’s ability to fulfill audit requirements and could even put federal funding at risk.

“It’s amazing that as state spending continues to swell, this plan from Gov. Whitmer would cut independent efforts that help ensure greater transparency in government,” Bierlein said. “Our government transparency rankings compared to other states are already towards the bottom. This would only double down on bad practices and further erode people’s trust.”

Bierlein has consistently championed a more open and accessible government during the 2023-24 legislative term. He has called on the House to move forward with House Bills 5422-27, which strengthen transparency requirements for Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and improve the process for obtaining government records.

The legislative package, which Bierlein has co-sponsored, would expand FOIA to ensure the governor, lieutenant governor and the Legislature disclose documents and communications. Michigan is just one of two states where the Legislature and the governor’s office are not subject to FOIA or another similar open records requirement. The requirements would be the same as what other elected officials and employees in other areas of state and local governments are currently expected to follow.

The bills currently remain under consideration in the House Government Operations Committee.

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