Have you ever stashed cash away in your underwear drawer – just in case? Apparently some state agencies have been socking money away outside of the state treasury.
“We asked for checking accounts held by agencies and departments, and to our surprise we found that many of these agencies had checking accounts that we were not aware of,” Senate Finance chairman Eric LeFleur told the Joint Budget committee. “And I think we are learning that many of these dollars are not even included in REC.”
He gave a recent example: a legislative audit finding that the Angola Prison Rodeo kept its own separate bank account.
“$6-million that was not included in Revenue Estimating,” LaFleur noted.
The disputed escrow account held by the Attorney General's office is another example.
Last year he passed a bill endeavoring to uncover some of these stashes, and Laura Lapeze with the Louisiana Treasurer’s Office told the committee they’ve been working on it.
“I have touched base with all agencies, and all agencies have reported to me except for those few that say that this Act does not apply to them,” Lapeze said.
“Which agencies are those?” LaFleur inquired.
“Those are the retirement boards and the legislative branch,” she replied, eliciting titters of laughter from the committee and observers.
LaFleur then looked over his glasses at a couple of committee members.
“I didn’t get your report, Mr. President, Mr. Speaker. When can we expect those reports?”
There is concern about these “off the books” funds, however.
“Can they spend those dollars, or does it just sit in the account?” LaFleur asked Lapeze, regarding the accounts they have uncovered thus far.
“They should…uh…” she started, clearly feeling like she’d been put on the spot. “There’s no one watching it, so sure. You know, they could spend that because there’s no appropriation stopping them.”
LaFleur reminded his fellow lawmakers this becomes a question of fairness.
“This is a problem because there are some agencies that don’t have those kind of accounts. So when cuts come into play, they take cuts while other agencies are able to go into their escrows and pull those dollars out.”
And LaFleur promised this will be discussed more in the upcoming session.
“You can expect several bills to come forward which will address all of these issues, so that there’s greater accountability about when these accounts are created and how those funds are used.”