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Government should require unit-cost accounting

Experience has taught me there is little to gain with simple, direct personal appeals to most of my representatives, past governors and state agencies. Thank God there are a few exceptions – but very few.

Gov. Jan Brewer made an appeal to hear any “good” ideas to help balance the budget. This is my response. I have tried to no avail to get the Legislature to consider and hopefully adopt this idea for a number of years, including when the governor was in the Legislature.

I’ll frame it as a question.

Why doesn’t Gov. Brewer require her agencies to adopt the same accounting principles and practices her agencies require of us?

Agencies require a unit-cost accounting standard of us in order to be able to hold us accountable for our costs. Agencies require contractors (and most taxpayers) to use a complete unit-cost accounting system so they can discern each of our costs for the goods and services we are providing. This system is necessary for competitive bidding so they can evaluate the lowest cost and best provider of services.

On the other hand, state agencies use the government system, which does not require the same level or degree of fiscal accountability. So it’s no surprise they want a double standard for accounting. Those same agencies fought against the introduction and passage of numerous bills that would require the same standards of accountability of them.

Their rational is that this is the standard practice used by other governments. Wonder why?
Without the agencies using a complete unit-cost accounting standard, the Legislature is unable to find out how much each agency service costs. They can’t find out where money can be saved. Neither can the governor. I doubt it will make up the entire budget deficit, but if Gov. Brewer can find the courage to require her agencies to use the same accounting policies and procedures her agencies require of us, it may save us millions of dollars and make her agencies more efficient.
It will take courage and fortitude because the agencies will come up with more ideas than you can shake a stick at to talk her out of it.

Until the Legislature can find out these costs, nobody will know where budget cuts can be made with the least loss of services or if we are getting the best value for our tax dollars. We know how much we spend under the budget process, but we don’t know the costs – complete detailed costs – for each service we spend it on.

It’s time we know.

- Bill Sandry, Mesa

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