Auditor defends credibility, accomplishments

Published 12:53 pm Saturday, July 14, 2007

By Staff
Explains influence to local Republicans
Special to the Daily News
BATH — Though he was speaking to the Al-Pam Republican Club on Thursday night in Bath, State Auditor Leslie Merritt explained that in his office, it is important to remain nonpartisan when dealing with state dollars. Running for re-election in 2008, Merritt highlighted some of the accomplishments of the office during his term and said that “for the Republican Party to do well in the state, it needs to do strong in eastern North Carolina.”
Merritt described his as a “proactive office” whose 195 employees try to “head off as many problems as possible” using both strategic and performance audits to monitor state spending. The use of specialized computer software allows auditors to perform strategic audits on state agencies. Those audits highlight possible problems and alert the office when a more in-depth performance review might be needed.
Beaufort County Commissioner Al Klemm asked Merritt for insight into state Medicaid spending, calling the program a “catastrophic drain” on county budgets. North Carolina is one of three states whose counties are required to share the state’s Medicaid costs.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicaid spending in the state, has a good internal audit system, Merritt told Klemm. But, the complexity of the Medicaid system makes it difficult to detect all fraudulent activity, he said. New technology is allowing auditors to be more thorough in detecting abuses, he said.
Along with Medicaid spending, Merritt said his office has also been keeping a close watch on temporary state sales taxes that are supposed to end this fiscal year.
Merritt also addressed his office’s role in monitoring state funds raised through the N.C. Education Lottery, an audit that he said his office has hired out.