Members of the Oversight Committee for the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) approved rules at their Dec. 10 meeting that would prevent any single legislator or LOFT employee from unilaterally targeting an agency or government official with audits.
Under the rules, adopted without opposition, LOFT will be required to submit a proposed work plan each year to the oversight committee that outlines what state agencies and programs will undergo review and audit. That plan would have to receive the support of eight members of the Oversight Committee for the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency—four House members and four Senate members—before LOFT employees could proceed.
The rules also state, “No member of the Legislature shall be authorized to use LOFT resources to conduct investigations, evaluations or audits except as otherwise approved by the LOFT Oversight Committee or allowed by law.”
“So no investigations or audits could happen without a vote of the oversight committee on the work plan?” asked Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City
“That is correct,” said Sen. Kim David, a Porter Republican who co-chaired the group that developed the rules.
The rules are based on regulations used in New Mexico for the oversight of a similar office. Rep. Jon Echols, an Oklahoma City Republican who was the other co-chair of the group that developed the rules governing LOFT, said they were designed to be “easy to understand” and preserve the bicameral nature of the agency.
“It will require both chambers to move forward with something,” Echols said.
Sen. Kim David said LOFT’s work plan will be a “road map that they use through the year,” but that flexibility is provided to ensure the agency’s efforts can be redirected if needed.
“It’s not set in stone,” David said. “That’s their work plan, but that can be revised.”
She said the requirement for bicameral approval prior to LOFT reviewing an agency is meant to prevent abuse of the system.
“That’s a safety net that we have in place to prevent somebody from going rogue and pulling an investigation, a one-man investigation,” David said.
The rules were adopted without opposition.
Lawmakers created LOFT this year to audit state agency budgets and evaluate the effectiveness of state programs and services, and then issue reports of resulting conclusions that will inform legislative debate. LOFT’s final reports will be made public, officials said at the Dec. 10 meeting.
The oversight committee is in the process of providing the framework that will guide LOFT’s operations and is currently reviewing five applications for executive director of the new agency. Under the rules adopted during the group’s December meeting, the oversight committee will be required to make an annual recommendation to legislative leaders for retention or termination of a LOFT executive director, and both the speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate must annually choose to retain the director.