EDITORIAL The 2000 law that made it easier for schools and college districts to sell bonds for capital improvements requires every agency raising money this way to create a citizens' oversight committee to monitor spending. It also mandates regular audits.
But it's a bit unclear what the audit requirement actually means and as G.W. Schulz reports on page 15, that's allowed some outfits, including San Francisco's Community College District, to get away with spending hundreds of millions of dollars without proper accountability.
Some lawyers argue that school districts need only undergo perfunctory financial audits. Others say the law mandates detailed performance audits. This sounds like a minor point, but it's not: financial audits only look at what was spent. Performance audits look at how and why and whether the money was spent in accordance with what the voters were promised.
The City College administration is only now, reluctantly, agreeing to a performance audit, something that should have been done five years ago. The school's lawyers say bond money can be freely shuffled from project to project, at any time, and there's no need for regular performance audits.
There's a simple way to clear this up: Attorney General Jerry Brown needs to issue an opinion on the intent of the law. And if he won't do that or comes down on the side of unaccountable government, then the state Legislature needs to pass a bill mandating performance audits and requiring that bond proceeds actually go where the voters were told they would.
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