A report by the state auditor earlier this year was critical of the North Dakota Highway Patrol for its work on school bus inspections. At the same time, the auditor revealed school districts in the state were lax in reporting ownership and inspection information about school buses.
Those revelations are among numerous audits released by Joshua Gallion, whose various findings have ruffled feathers in the state but who is a public servant living up to the title – auditor – of his office.
In June, Gallion declared the Highway Patrol had not been following its internal policies on bus inspections. The audit claimed the agency was inaccurately tracking inspections and wasn’t working from a full list of vehicles to be inspected.
Sunday, the Herald outlined good changes that have come following those initial findings by Gallion. For example, the process of tracking inspections is to become more streamlined in North Dakota in the wake of the report. Soon, the data will be incorporated into an automated reporting system called STARS – State Automated Reporting System – that will serve as a hub for this important information, including whether inspections have been conducted, by whom, what deficiencies were found and what efforts are being made to remedy them.
If it was prompted by the work of Gallion, so be it. The Highway Patrol noted in the Herald’s recent report that changes already were being considered when Gallion’s report was released earlier in the summer. Either way, it is progress.
We have just one issue: STARS apparently is not readily accessible to the public, but instead is only aimed at the people who actually input the data. As far as we know, the public is not able to access any information on the site, which requires a log-in name and a password.
Back to Gallion’s various audits, which no doubt have created ripples in North Dakota’s government.
He issued a report on the state Information Technology Department, noting “unlocated” pieces of equipment, including some that contained sensitive information.
He issued a report critical of Gov. Doug Burgum’s use of airplanes.
He issued a report critical of the contract procurement process of the North Dakota University System.
He issued a report critical of a state lawmaker who allegedly pushed contracts toward his wife’s firm.
He issued a report critical of leadership at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton.
Generally, his reports have prompted critical responses from each of those departments. He makes no apologies for his sometimes blunt assessments. He told Forum News Service earlier this year that he’s “just trying to do the right thing every day.”
Not everyone is pleased, but that’s OK. Government needs to be shaken up every now and then. If Gallion sees that as his role, North Dakotans are better off for it.