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Gov. Brown signs bills to increase state accountability, transparency

One bill aims to flesh out the role of agency monitors, another to curb accounting errors and fraud. And one will make agency reports available to the public online.

August 28, 2013|By Melanie Mason

SACRAMENTO — Improved government accountability and transparency were the focus of several bills that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Wednesday.

One directs the Department of Finance to guide monitors of state agencies to ensure they are independent and objective in scrutinizing agency operations. State agencies have been required to have independent monitors keeping an eye on accounting and administrative practices since 2011.

Assembly member Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) said his bill, AB 117, would help flesh out the role such monitors play.

"If you've got a thousand agencies and a thousand individuals sitting in the bowels of these agencies and they have no training, and no clear explanation of who they report to, that's worthless," Cooley said.

He said the need for strong monitors was underscored by the recent accounting scandal at the California parks department, in which officials concealed nearly $54 million in surplus funds.

Brown signed another Cooley bill Wednesday, AB 1248, requiring the state controller to work with local and state agencies to develop a set of auditing "best practices" to clamp down on accounting errors and fraud.

The governor also approved AB 1365, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), intended to improve the public's access to government reports by requiring state and local agencies to file them electronically rather than on paper.

The state's Office of Legislative Counsel, which keeps a list of all available reports, will be required to provide website links for the online reports.

And Brown signed AB 1218, by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), which authorizes the state auditor to conduct follow-ups related to an audit's initial findings and recommendations.

melanie.mason@latimes.com

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