State auditor hosts Henry County virtual town hall

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand
Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand

State Auditor Rob Sand “visited” Henry County Monday morning as part of his 99-county virtual town hall tour.

Sand, who met with people via Zoom, said that the purpose of the meetings is updating the public on the work his office has been doing.

“It’s a chance for people to poke a statewide official with a stick and see what comes out,” Sand said.

He said that his office has been busy with a number of pandemic-related audits.

The state received $1.25 billion this year in federal CARES Act funding, and the auditor’s office is required to audit how the state is spending the money.

Sand explained that the money is meant to be spent on programs like small business relief, testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment.

“It can’t be used for software that the state was already planning to buy,” Sand said, referencing his report that Gov. Kim Reynolds improperly spent $21 million on a software program that was already in the state budget.

“We worked with federal auditors and concluded that it wasn’t an appropriate use,” Sand said. “The ball is back in the governor’s court to fix that problem.”

The state has until the end of 2020 to spend its CARES Act funds.

“If it’s not spent properly, Iowa taxpayers will be on the hook,” Sand said.

Sand touted his “Stateside Work Statewide Jobs” initiative in his office.

“There’s no good reason that we work in 99 counties and our employees have to work in Des Moines,” Sand said.

The program, which began last year, gives employees of the auditor’s office the option to relocate to another part of the state and work in that region. The idea is to be able to save money on travel expenses.

“You can be home every night,” Sand said. “You don’t have to travel.”

He said that several months ago, one of his employees, Drew Carter, was able to relocate to Mt. Pleasant and help cover Southeast Iowa for the auditor’s office.

He added that Carter recently left state employment to work for a Mt. Pleasant accounting firm, which he said further illustrates how the initiative helps small towns.

“Any person’s presence in a small town means more than it means in Des Moines,” Sand said.

Sand discussed his public innovations and efficiencies (PIE) program.

He said its purpose is to have counties and cities promote efficiency in their communities.

It allows them to compete for awards – a PIE contest – for their efficiency efforts and share ideas – PIE recipes – with other communities on their efficiency ideas.

“It gives people credit when they’ve done well,” Sand said.