Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

A Truly Public Accountant

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

A Truly Public Accountant

Article excerpt

Between the activities of the Independence Standards Board and American Express buyouts, the CPA may well ask, what is independence? For Martha O. Haynie, CPA, it's being directly answerable to the public. In office since 1989, she is the only elected county comptroller in Florida, with more power than most county comptrollers: She has the authority to audit all the county's departments, including those of the other county officers, such as the county property appraisers and the tax collector. This power allows the comptroller's office to protect the public in new ways.

Thorny audits

Haynie's early audits covered countywide procurement practices. "We found some pretty sloppy and expensive practices, such as contracts signed on an emergency basis that were extended for years. The county ended up rewriting purchasing regulations." Another audit, of the county's land acquisition practices, found the county was overpaying for some land. In fact, according to the audit, the county commissioners had delegated too much of their authority.

Haynie often walks a fine line between politics and standards. "We've had to be very careful. Officials sometimes want to use my audits to make a political point, which is inappropriate." Consistency is also an issue: Haynie has to be careful not to appear to be going after anyone. She and her staff do risk analyses to decide which agencies to audit. They can't shy away from auditing the sheriff's office just because the sheriff is popular. To maintain the appearance as well as the fact of independence, Haynie generally allows the audit director under her to select which entities to audit. …

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