The Office of the Auditor General was established on January 1, 1969. It succeeded to the powers of the Office of the State Examiner (established in 1912) and the Office of the Post Auditor (established in 1950). Current statutory authority for the Auditor General is found at A.R.S. §§41-1278 et seq.
The Office of the Auditor General is part of the Legislative branch of government. The Auditor General is appointed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and must be approved by a concurrent resolution of the Legislature. The Auditor General must be a certified public accountant, licensed to practice in Arizona (A.R.S. §41-1279.01). The Office conducts sunset audits and performance evaluations of state agencies, state programs, counties, community college districts and school districts; determines agency compliance with federal and state law; conducts audits, special audits and post audits of units of government; conducts special research requests and issues reports containing the results of the reviews and audits.
Laws 1912, First Special Session, Chapter 17 created the office of the State Examiner, responsible for establishing and enforcing a uniform system of bookkeeping, requiring a periodic statement of accounts, and making unannounced investigations of the books, accounts and vouchers of county offices and precinct officers. The law established penalties for misleading or obstructing the State Examiner. An annual report was required to be provided to the Governor in December. The State Examiner was required to be an accountant and was appointed by the Governor to a term of two years.
In 1922, the Legislature adopted the state financial code which stated that all expenses of state agencies would be paid from the State General Fund according to provisions of the general appropriations bill. Laws 1922, Chapter 35 made conforming changes throughout statute, including revisions to the statutory authority of the State Examiner.
Laws 1950, First Special Session, Chapter 28 established the position of Post Auditor, an accountant with experience in governmental accounting and auditing, appointed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, with the advice and consent of a majority of the two chambers. The Post Auditor was responsible for examining the accounts and financial practices of all state departments, institutions, boards and commissions and providing information to the legislature as guidance in formulating legislative policies, legislation and appropriations. The law also transferred certain duties from the State Auditor to the Post Auditor. Those included the responsibility to prescribe a uniform system of accounting for agencies, boards and commissions; to examine all records of public funds; to audit the amount of taxes collected by counties; and to file all audit reports with the Governor and Legislature.
Two measures were adopted in 1966 that affected the Post Auditor. The first measure, Laws 1966 Chapter 95, created the Department of Finance and transferred certain duties of the Post Auditor to the newly established Commissioner of Finance. (Note: the powers and duties of the Department of Finance were transferred to the Arizona Department of Administration in 1972. See history of the ADOA for additional information.)
The second measure enacted in 1966 required a request from the Legislature in order to trigger an examination of accounts or financial practices of state agencies. The law also established the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (see Laws 1966, Chapter 96).
Laws 1968, Chapter 87 established the Office of the Auditor General as a legislative agency, providing for appointment by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC). The law transferred some of the powers and duties of the State Auditor to the Auditor General. In addition the office of the Post Auditor was abolished and all powers, duties, property and funds were transferred to the Office of the Auditor General, effective January 1, 1969.
The same year, the Office of the State Examiner was abolished and powers, duties, property and records were transferred to the Office of the Auditor General. See Laws 1968, Chapter 177.
Laws 1981, Chapter 317 required the appointment of the Auditor General to be approved by a concurrent resolution of the Legislature. The law also, as part of the ability to examine records, authorized the Auditor General to attend executive sessions of the governing body of a state agency and to access state tax returns. The measure emphasized the Auditor General could not violate the confidentiality of state tax laws. In addition, the Auditor General was required to prescribe a uniform expenditure reporting system for political subdivisions that were subject to constitutional expenditure limitations, including counties, community college districts and cities and towns. A report to the Legislature outlining implementation of the uniform expenditure reporting system with recommendations for improvement was due by December 31, 1981.
Laws 1982 Chapter 110 modified the powers and duties of the Auditor General with respect to personnel, audits and contents of reports. The law also authorized audits of community college districts. That same year, the Auditor General was required to prescribe a uniform system of accounting for community college districts and to work in conjunction with the State Board of Directors for Community Colleges (See Laws 1982, Chapter 196).
Laws 1985, Chapter 129 allowed the Auditor General to obtain criminal history record information for employment of personnel by the Office and to obtain information on persons committed to the Arizona Department of Corrections.
Laws 1992, Chapter 56 established the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC), replacing the former Joint Legislative Oversight Committee, and transferred certain responsibilities related to the Auditor General from JLBC. The JLAC was authorized to oversee all audit functions; to appoint the Auditor General; direct audits and investigations; require agencies to comply with its findings and directions; and was given the power of legislative subpoena. In addition the Auditor General was required to prepare an audit plan and a report of each audit, investigation or review for approval by JLAC.
Two other measures related to the Auditor General were enacted that same year. Laws 1992, Chapter 133 appropriated $9,000 to the Auditor General to cover the cost of a study of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. The report was due to the Governor and Legislature no later than March 1, 1993.
Laws 1992, Chapter 170 required the Auditor General to review and report on expenditures of the transportation excise tax. Those reporting requirements were expanded by Laws 1996, Chapter 206.
Laws 2002, Chapter 164 required the Auditor General to perform special research requests made by JLAC. The law provided that information contained in special research request working files and audit papers were not a public record and not subject to disclosure.
Laws 2010, Chapter 5 required the Auditor General to conduct a special audit of the Tourism and Sports Authority, including contracts, procurement, financing, cash flow projections and bonds. A report was required to be provided to the Governor and the Legislature by December 31, 2010.
Laws 2014, Chapter 229 established a termination date of July 1, 2018 for JLAC. Laws 2018, Chapter 279 extended it to July 1, 2026.
Laws 2017, Chapter 305, Section 129, appropriated $200,000 from the Arizona Water Banking Fund to the Auditor General for a special audit of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District. The audit was due by December 31, 2017.
Laws 2019, Chapter 209 requires political subdivisions, subject to constitutional expenditure limitations to comply with the uniform expenditure reporting system, instructions and forms prescribed by the Auditor General. The Auditor General is authorized to notify the Attorney General and the Joint Legislative Audit Committee if a political subdivision fails to comply with the reporting requirements. Outlines the process for the Attorney General to compel a political subdivision to comply.
Arizona Auditor General website: www.azauditor.gov