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Shortsighted budget cut

The City Council’s ill-considered decision to eliminate the city’s internal audit may have saved a miniscule percentage of the annual budget but will likely come at a higher cost.

The council voted to cut three-quarters of the budget for the internal audit, or $198,000 – less than two-tenths of 1 percent of the city’s general fund budget. The council provided enough money to fund the audit for the first quarter of the year, but if the Henry administration makes its case to continue the audit, the money will have to come from other accounts or the already-stretched cash reserves.

Councilman Marty Bender argued that the city’s audit duplicates the State Board of Accounts’ outside audit, but that isn’t really accurate. The state reviews whether the city legally spent and accounted for the money. But, as Dan Stockman’s stories on Friday and Sunday showed, the city’s audit goes much deeper, finding not only financial savings but identifying lapses that potentially threaten public safety.

For example, the audit demonstrated that one cost of holding the line on city spending has been a reduction in the number of fire inspections. Not all buildings that hold 1,000 or more people are inspected annually, as they should be. The audit also detected lapses in police officials reassigning cold cases after an investigator leaves the department.

Audits have uncovered problems with billing practices, computer security and payments for data lines no longer in use.

The reasons of council members in cutting money for the audit were weak at best.

Bender said the audit causes ill will among employees. If so, bad feelings are a small price to pay for ensuring safety, accountability and efficiency.

A simple review of the audit’s findings over the years is more than enough to support the fact that it’s needed.

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