FILE - Florida capitol

The Florida capitol buildings in Tallahassee.

(The Center Square) — The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee met in Tallahassee Thursday to discuss issues that have been found in some school districts, municipalities and private entities that have repeatedly not been addressed and also discussed ways to ensure more compliance.

According to Auditor General Sherrill Norman, who was in attendance during the most recent committee meeting, she and her staff were asked to produce "a list of things that would help address the barriers we had in completing our work."

Norman, along with her attending staff, broke down recommendations to assist them in future auditing — firstly to strengthen independent subpoena power, bolstering an enforcement statute, and lastly to clarify the reach of audit authority and the duty of certain private parties or nonprofit entities to cooperate with auditing efforts.

Currently, the Legislative Auditing Committee holds the power to subpoena, however, the committee wants more subpoena power given to the Auditor General to enable more independence away from the committee, which does not meet frequently.

Most entities who have been asked to comply with an audit issue generally comply. In some rare cases, audited bodies will avoid correcting issues purposely because the committee does not meet frequently enough to hold them accountable.

Committee Alternating Chair, Sen. Pizzo, D-Miami, suggested the Auditor General have an investigator or law enforcement officer working for her office to assist with giving the auditor more "teeth" when seeking compliance.

Part of the noncompliance, according to the Auditor General’s office, comes down to a lack of qualified staff.

To alleviate this, Norman has made the proposal to boost the amount of people in that field, as over recent years accounting majors and graduates have decreased significantly.

Norman’s hope is to retain committed workers, which includes increases in pay and promotion opportunities, as well as creating a more professional environment for employees.

Other initiatives include promoting government career paths to Florida high school students, who will have access to scholarships to become a certified public accountant.

Norman also wants to keep in place the requirement that CPAs have master’s degrees to uphold the reputation of her office. She said Florida college students are often recruited and are able to finish their master’s degrees once they start working at the department.

In some cases, those who have been audited are almost two years behind in responding and staff shortages will continue to make the process longer.

Currently, if an entity chooses not to comply and does not provide a reasonable explanation of why they remain noncompliant, they can be brought before the committee to answer questions.

The next step after that means withholding of state funds, freezing bank accounts and taking the noncompliant entities to court.

Permission was asked of the committee to be able to reallocate funds by the Auditor General within her office as she sees fit. She also told the committee that her office would not require any additional funds.

A motion was adopted to accept staff recommendations and an additional letter will be sent to entities that have not yet corrected audit findings, unless the response has been previously provided and all corrective measures have been taken to the best of their ability and available resources.