Audit says Kinder ‘Waste’ web site not authorized

Report also questions pay raises to lieutenant governor's staff

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder doesn’t have the legal authority to investigate public concerns about government waste, nor to create his planned “Missouri Waste Report” website, a state audit report said Thursday.

Additionally, the report said, Kinder’s plans duplicate work already created by state law in other state agencies.

The audit also questioned raises Kinder gave his staff that other state employees didn’t receive.

But, Deputy Auditor Harry Otto said, the audit’s overall rating still is “good,” indicating the lieutenant governor’s office is “very well-managed” financially.

Lawmakers this year gave Kinder about $38,000 to create the “Waste Report” website, which he’s been promoting for a couple of years — but did not pass a law giving him specific legal authority to run it.

Without that authority, Otto told reporters Thursday morning, state agencies might be reluctant to answer questions raised through the website.

But, in its written response included in the audit report, the lieutenant governor’s office said there have been other instances where Kinder’s predecessors implemented programs or initiatives without statutory authority or a governor’s executive order.

“As the state’s official senior advocate, the Lt. Governor has statutory power to investigate claims made to the office relating to senior issues,” Kinder’s staff told the auditor. “This would include allegations of waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars detrimental to our already vulnerable senior citizens.”

Kinder also cited his membership “as an advisor and ex officio member of several Missouri boards and commissions, many of which vote to allocate millions of taxpayer dollars for various purposes (and) has an interest by virtue of his position on these boards to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent prudently.”

Kinder said he will ask lawmakers to change the Open Meetings/Open Records law, so they can keep confidential the identities of the people providing the reports of waste and abuse they expect to receive.

As in several other audits Schweich’s office has released, Thursday’s report questioned Kinder’s decision to give pay raises to employees that were not provided to other state employees.

“Given the recent state budget constraints, and that other state employees have generally not received such pay increases, the office should re-evaluate the reasonableness and necessity for these salary increases,” the audit said.

In his written response, Kinder said: “(State law) gives the Lt. Governor discretion to set compensation of employees as he sees fit so long as the office does not exceed its appropriation limits. The Lt. Governor has never exceeded his appropriation.”

Otto agreed Kinder “has a history of spending less than what he is appropriated.”

The new audit report also closed the books on Kinder’s 2011 repayment of hotel expenses from 2005 to 2011 that had been questioned.

“The lieutenant governor attempted to compute all of his lodging expense (and) pay that back,” Otto explained. “When we looked at it, we found a couple of minor coding errors.”

That 2011 report suggested Kinder still owed $1,888.

Thursday’s new report said Kinder paid that amount in June 2011.

“We only mentioned it because it occurred during this audit period,” Otto said. “It’s more of an informational note than anything else.”

Because Auditor Tom Schweich received campaign support from Kinder when Schweich first ran for the office in 2010, including a $220,000 donation, Schweich has recused himself from all audits of the lieutenant governor’s office.

So Otto was assigned to supervise the audit work and final report.

Earlier coverage, posted at 10:19 a.m. Thursday:

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder doesn’t have the legal authority to investigate the public’s concerns about government waste, nor to create his planned “Missouri Waste Report” web site, a state audit report said.

Additionally, the report released this morning said, Kinder’s plans duplicate work already created by state law in other state agencies.

But, in its response, the lieutenant governor’s office said there have been other instances where Kinder’s predecessors have implemented programs or initiatives without statutory authority or a governor’s executive order.

Still, the response said, the office would ask lawmakers to keep confidential, under the Sunshine Law, the reports of waste and abuse they expect to receive.

The audit also questioned raises Kinder gave his staff that other state employees didn’t receive.

Kinder said state law gives him that authority, as long as he doesn’t exceed the Legislature’s appropriation limits.

Because Auditor Tom Schweich — a long time Kinder supporter — has recused himself from all audits of the lieutenant governor’s office, Deputy Auditor Harry Otto supervised the report released today.

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