Thawing frosty relations between auditors and agency staff

By Published On: June 15th, 2022Categories: Capitol Notes

When the state comptroller’s office tried to do an analysis of New York’s workforce development programs they had difficulties getting information they needed.

That’s because the state Department of Labor wouldn’t give them what they asked for.

This contentious experience, though, is not a unique example of the relationship between auditors working for state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and executive agency officials under the control of the governor.

A lack of cooperation was almost expected during the reign of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was known for his feelings of antipathy toward the comptroller, but there still appears to be room for improved relations on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s watch. The auditors can also contribute to the rocky relations, as they’re sometimes viewed as going on fishing expeditions – audits without a clear mission – and not understanding the entity or project they’re reviewing.

“I think agencies and our office look at what question we’re trying to answer differently,” said Tina Kim, deputy comptroller for the division of state government accountability.

For instance, with the recent workforce development review, the OSC wanted to inspect a plan from the state Workforce Investment Board. Because the plan was in a draft form, though, labor department officials would only confirm that it existed, but wouldn’t share the plan.

“We want to see whether that plan actually meets its intended purpose,” Kim told The Capitol Pressroom. “So it’s important to us to actually look at the plan. And I think that they look at it is, ‘I have a plan.'”

Asked whether this type of a response is a reflection of the governor or bureaucratic opposition, Kim said, “It is very hard to change culture over time.”

“It is one of the things that we’ve historically actually talked about and it is something that the state should actually consider,” she said “If anyone thinks that you can change culture in a short period of time, I think it’s more of a long-term … look.”

A spokesperson for the comptroller’s office credited Hochul with setting a “new direction and tone.” “This is going to take a concerted effort to hold agencies to a new level of cooperation and accountability,” said DiNapoli’s spokesperson.

Asked about the working relationship between agencies and the comptroller’s auditors, a spokesperson for Hochul said the governor is “committed to restoring a climate of collaboration with our partners in government.”

“Executive agencies regularly work with the Office of the State Comptroller in a cooperative and collaborative manner to ensure that audits are fair, accurate and successful; any example otherwise is an exception, not the rule,” said Hochul Press Secretary Hazel Crampton-Hays. “We will continue to strengthen information sharing and cooperation across state agencies.”

The governor’s office highlighted recent audits completed by the comptroller’s office that noted instances where executive agency staff implemented recommendations from auditors.