When the state's leaders prepared the New Mexico Constitution in 1911 for impending statehood in the following year, they created a strong, independent auditor's office to oversee how government officials would spend taxpayers' hard-earned dollars.
In Thompson v. Legislative Audit Commission, 79 N.M. 693 (1968), the Supreme Court of New Mexico emphasized that “the office of state auditor was created and exists for the basic purpose of having a completely independent representative of the people, accountable to no one else, with the power, duty and authority to examine and pass upon the activities of state officers and agencies who, by law, receive and expend public moneys.”
The Office of the State Auditor conducts and oversees audits of approximately 1,000 government entities, from large state agencies to small political subdivisions, such as land grants and mutual domestic water associations. The vast majority of these audits are performed by private accounting firms selected by the agencies and approved by the Office.
In addition to reporting to the citizens of New Mexico on the accountability of state and local governments, the Office provides information and technical assistance for government agencies and independent public accountants throughout the state.
The Office maintains a formal quality control system that is monitored and evaluated periodically to ensure that the Office is in compliance with professional and accounting standards. The Office undergoes an external peer review by the National State Auditors Association (Link to most recent review) and is subject to annual financial and compliance audits by independent accounting firms. Furthermore, to ensure the State Auditor is accountable to the public, the State Auditor is elected to a four-year term and may only serve two consecutive terms.
The State Auditor's Office is comprised of four divisions and one special office: the Administrative Services Division, Special Investigation Division, Financial Audit Division, Compliance and Regulation Division, and the Government Accountability Office.
For more about the responsibilities and functions of the various divisions click here
Agency officials often dread being audited and think the process is complete and successful if the report reveals few or no problems with how taxpayers' money was spent. To taxpayers and public officials, a correct and timely audit that justifiably cites problem areas is of more value than an incorrect audit that does not. Audit reports should not just be filed away when complete. They are not produced for the exclusive use of government managers, but are also for the use of the public. A good audit report shows how government managers and employees administer public money. Public officials should use audit reports and findings as a management tool to guide their decisions during the coming year.
The State Auditor's Office conducts trainings on a variety of topics to assist governmental entities and independent public accountants in meeting audit requirements.
Through its educational efforts, the Office helps agencies improve their performance while promoting government accountability. Proactively assisting governmental bodies and promptly identifying any financial weaknesses that may exist helps prevent fraud, waste and abuse and provides a roadmap for corrective actions.
The Legislature appropriates funding for state and local agencies and the State Auditor's Office audits the revenues and expenditures of the agencies at the end of the fiscal year. However, depending on the nature of the agency, there may be another agency that plays a role in oversight on an ongoing basis. Among others, these oversight agencies include the Department and Finance and Administration, Higher Education Department, Public Education Department, and Environment Department.
When agencies encounter serious problems during the course of the year, the appropriate oversight agency may have to become more involved in the operations of those entities. The timely completion of audits provides financial accountability and transparency, however, audits are not a substitute for continuous oversight on a day-to-day basis.