California’s State Auditor, Elaine Howle, is retiring after 21 years. The Auditor’s office is an invaluable resource, investigating inefficiency and waste, along with fraud and abuse in government agencies.
Over the years, Ms. Howle has not shied away from some of the most contentious issues/failures of state government. Examples include probes into Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Employment Development Department (EDD) and the state’s efforts to combat homelessness.
At the DMV, auditors found a wide range of “significant deficiencies,” including lack of adequate staffing, reliance on outdated technology, and even one DMV worker who slept on the job three hours a day for four years – with no consequences. The roll-out of Real ID magnified these problems, leading to excessively long wait times for many DMV customers.
Another example is the EDD. Problems include at least $11 billion in fraudulent claims, with millions paid to prison inmates. The state audit led to significant reforms, including legislation requiring EDD to check claims against inmate records.
As for California’s homelessness programs, the audit found we’ve spent $13 billion through 41 different programs in the last three years, though we still have the nation’s largest homeless population, and the problem is growing, not shrinking. There is no single entity directing the effort, there is no statewide strategic plan.
These are just a few of the problems and failures discovered by audits conducted under the leadership of Elaine Howle. The importance of her steady, trusted voice for good governance cannot be overstated – and this guidance must continue. That’s why several colleagues and I wrote a letter to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee requesting the appointment of a bi-partisan committee of one Democrat and one Republican from each house to vet prospective candidates.
Elaine Howle leaves big shoes to fill; we must ensure the right person gets the job.