STEUBENVILLE - State Auditor Dave Yost discussed the office's function during the Friday luncheon meeting of the city Rotary Club at the YWCA.
Yost began by complimenting the City of Murals before describing the office's duties, including basic auditing of Ohio's 5,300 local governments.
"That's a whole lot of government in Ohio," he said.
Yost also said the duties of the office include forensic auditing, which includes making sure there is no malfeasance with taxpayers' funds. The office comes in and performs an audit, and if irregularities are found a case is built and a special prosecutor then steps in, said Yost.
"We can appoint a special prosecutor," said Yost, who also referred briefly to a recent examination of Smithfield's finances, which have been declared unauditable. "We have an interesting situation in Smithfield."
Yost said he was most interested in what he called "performance audits. These are something not a lot of people know about."
Yost said those in elected office usually pledge to cut spending, but "when (politicians) get into office things don't seem to change much. It doesn't seem to matter what party it is."
When cuts do occur they are usually cut "with a chainsaw," said Yost, adding the cuts aren't performed in a surgical manner, leading to problems in government services. He said performance audits can help municipalities make cuts where there's inefficiency and overlap, improving government services.
"You would never make these kind of cuts in private enterprise," said Yost, adding sometimes government cuts aren't always sensible. "I've been watching government for a long time. One of the things we're missing is a profit motive."
Yost said without that motive it can be difficult to bring about change and use tax dollars wisely for services provided by government.
He added it's also often difficult to make cuts in services because it affects peoples' lives.
"How do you go about that intention to cutting costs (in government)?" Yost asked. "It's hard to make cuts. It affects people. How do you do that?"
The state auditor's office will help municipalities examine their finances and look for ways to cut costs without cutting services, said Yost. He added a targeted approach to government cost-cutting works, and he cited recent examples.
"We save $22 to every $1 spent through our performance audits," Yost said. "We front the costs of (of the audit) and we give (municipalities) a report. They have one year to implement the changes we recommend. They can then pay for the audit through the funds they've saved. (Municipalities) can really drive down the cost of government costs that way without cutting government services."
Yost ended by telling Rotarians the auditor's office main duty was to make sure taxpayers' money is spent the way they should be.
"My job is to be the truth-teller," Yost said. "My commitment to you is to always tell the truth."