How to Request an Audit

The State Auditor`s office does not have original jurisdiction over most local governmental entities except school districts or counties with no county auditor. Therefore, the only way the State Auditor`s office can obtain jurisdiction to perform an audit in these areas is either through the petition process, or through a governor`s request.

Petition Process

Under Missouri law, the State Auditor`s office may be called on to audit any political subdivision of the state (such as cities, school districts, water districts) if enough qualified voters of that political subdivision request the auditor to conduct an audit. Section 29.230.2 RSMo, outlines the petition process. State law specifies the political subdivision audited through the petition process bears the actual cost of the audit. The number of signatures that must be obtained to start a petition audit are determined by a "sliding scale" based on the number of votes cast during the most recent gubernatorial election. The signer of any petition must be a registered voter residing within the political subdivision for which the petition is circulating.

 

When the State Auditor`s office receives a signed petition, it is forwarded to the local election authority to determine if sufficient signatures are valid. After the local election authority validates the minimum number of signatures required, and returns the petition to the State Auditor`s office, the petition is considered `active` and is scheduled. It may be a length of time, however, before audit staff begin the fieldwork portion of the audit.

Governor`s Request
Section 26.060 RSMo, outlines the authority of the governor and state law further states that the cost of the audit will come out of an auditing fund to be appropriated by the general assembly to be used by the governor for that purpose.

Questions and Answers about Petition Audits


1. What is a petition audit?

Under Missouri law, the State Auditor may be called on to audit any political subdivision of the state (such as cities, school districts, water districts, etc.) if enough qualified voters of that political subdivision request an audit.  Here is what the law, Section 29.230.2, RSMo, says:

The State Auditor shall audit any political subdivision of the state . . . if requested to do so by a petition signed by the requisite percent of the qualified voters of the political subdivision.... The political subdivision shall pay the actual cost of audit.  The petition that requests an audit of a political subdivision shall state on its face the estimated cost of the audit and that it will be paid by the political subdivision being audited.... No political subdivision shall be audited by petition more than once in any three calendar or fiscal years."


2. Who can initiate a petition audit?

Anyone interested in proper governance of the political subdivision can initiate a petition. The person or persons circulating the petition do not have to be a resident or registered voter of the political subdivision. The name of the person to whom the signature forms are sent is a public record.

3. How does someone request a petition audit?

A Request for Petition Audit form is available on our website or a form may be requested by contacting our office. The form requires that a "chief petitioner" or contact person be designated. In addition, we ask that a list of concerns be provided to the State Auditor`s office at that time so that we can discuss the concerns and potential audit scope, and better estimate the cost of the audit.

4. Does the petition have to be submitted on a special form?

State law requires the State Auditor`s office to provide an estimate of the cost of the audit to be stated on the face of the petition. Such information is provided on a standard petition signature form to ensure compliance and provide consistency. This form will be provided to the chief petitioner after receipt of the Request for Petition Audit form by the State Auditor`s office. All completed petition signature forms are to be submitted to the State Auditor`s office.

5. How many signatures are required?

The law establishes a “sliding scale” based upon the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election held prior to the filing of the petition with the State Auditor.  The minimum number of signatures required can be determined from the table below:

  No. of Votes in

      Last Gubernatorial        The Greater of                

            Election                             %                Minimum

Below 1,000

25% of

registered voters

---

1,000 to 4,999

15% of actual votes

200

5,000 to 49,999

10% of actual votes

750

50,000 or more

 5% of actual votes

5,000



6. Who can sign the petition?

A signer must be a resident of the political subdivision and a registered voter.

7. What happens when the State Auditor receives a petition calling for an audit?

If it appears there are enough signatures on the petition, the State Auditor`s office will send a copy to the election authority, most often the county clerk, to verify the signatures are of registered, resident voters. If there are a sufficient number of signatures of registered, resident voters, the petition is considered active and the governing body of the political subdivision and the petitioners are notified and the petition goes on the list of audits the State Auditor will perform. If the number of signatures is less than required by law, the petition is returned for additional signatures.

8. Once a petition is initially submitted to the State Auditor`s office, is there a way to remove signatures?

No, there is no provision in the law which provides for the removal of signatures from the petition.

9. Are the petition signature forms and signatures considered public records?

Yes, once the petition signature forms are received by the State Auditor`s office, forms and signatures are public records. However, all working papers including any concerns are confidential.

10. Once a petition is on the list of audits to be performed, how long before work will begin?

Work begins on petition audits as soon as staff members are available.

11. What happens once the actual petition audit has begun?

The State Auditor`s office will meet with the governing body in an open meeting to explain the audit process and answer questions. The office then starts the "fieldwork" phase of the audit, gathering information and studying records.

After  preparing the report, it is reviewed on several levels. Audit staff then meet with the governing body in a closed meeting to discuss the report and obtain responses to the findings. Those responses are included in the final audit report.


12. What is included in a petition audit of a political subdivision?

The State Auditor`s office will conduct a performance audit. The State Auditor`s office will determine the scope of the audit based upon various information including concerns expressed by citizens. The State Auditor`s office will ask the petition group to prepare a list of concerns; however, all concerns might not be audited. The audit will cover the current period and most recently completed fiscal year at the time the petition is considered active and the audit is scheduled.

13. The law says the petition must state the estimated cost of the audit. What does an average audit cost?

There is really no such thing as an average audit and it is difficult to estimate the cost of a particular audit until we are well underway with the audit. The estimated range of costs stated on the face of the petition is based on historical experience with political subdivisions of a similar size and with similar concerns.

14.How are actual costs determined, and who has to pay the bill?

Actual audit costs billed are based on two factors - audit staff work-hours and expenses. The auditors working on a petition audit track the time incurred on the audit. Actual costs may vary from the original estimate stated on the petition. The cost of those hours plus any direct expenses make up the audit bill. The law says the political subdivision being audited must pay the actual cost of the audit even if that cost exceeds the estimate.

15. How are the petitioners informed of the progress of the audit?

Once the petition is considered active, the chief petitioner will be notified by mail. In addition, the chief petitioner will be notified once the audit is scheduled. The results of the audit will not be discussed with the petitioners until the audit is made public upon release. Section 29.070, RSMo, prohibits employees of the State Auditor`s office from revealing information secured in the course of an audit to anyone except the State Auditor. Violation of this law is a felony.

16. How is the public informed about the results of the audit?

At the conclusion of some petition audits, a public meeting is held in the political subdivision. When a public meeting is not held, a press release will be issued. News releases and audit reports are available on our website.

17. What happens if the auditor uncovers something serious, like a large amount of money missing or possible fraud?

If information is uncovered that indicates ongoing criminal activity or fraud, the State Auditor`s office informs the proper authorities as soon as possible. In less serious cases, the audit report will note the problem and recommend the proper authorities correct the situation.

18. How does the State Auditor enforce the recommendations made in audit reports?

The audit follow-up program, AFTER (Auditor`s Follow-Up Team to Effect Recommendations), monitors the implementation of audit recommendations. As part of the audit process, auditors identify serious audit findings and make recommendations for improvement. Auditors work with audited entities to establish a reasonable timeline for implementation of the recommendations, and AFTER follows-up with the audited entities to ensure they are adhering to the agreed-upon timeline. The State Auditor`s office will publish an annual status report to track implementation of recommendations. However, the State Auditor`s office cannot force an entity to implement the recommendations.

19. What about political subdivisions that already have had an audit?

It is not unusual for the State Auditor to be asked to audit a political subdivision that an independent certified public accountant has audited, especially in the case of school districts. When that occurs, the State Auditor`s office will review the independent audit to assist us in our audit and to avoid any duplication of effort.

20. How does a petition audit performed by the State Auditor`s office differ from the audit performed by a CPA firm?

The State Auditor`s office conducts audits in accordance with standards contained in Government Auditing Standards, issued by the Comptroller General of the United States. Petition audits conducted by the State Auditor`s office are performance audits and will not fulfill requirements the political subdivision may have for a financial statement audit, including federal and state grant requirements and bond or loan requirements.

To initiate the petition process, please complete and submit the following form or contact the State Auditor's office at:

Click to Download the Petition Request Form - PDF Version
Click to Download the Petition Request Form - Word Version

P. O. Box 869
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Phone: (573) 751-4213
Toll Free: 1-800-347-8597

or  moaudit@.auditor.mo.gov