Under North Dakota law, the North Dakota State Auditor’s Office may be called on to audit or review any political subdivision of the state if enough qualified voters of that political subdivision request the audit/review.
The following sections explain the procedures for residents that are seeking an audit/review through the petition process.
The Office of the State Auditor does not audit/review issues that are currently in litigation or where litigation is imminent. Because we must defer to the courts, we wait until litigation is completed before we issue a petition audit/review.
Ways to Obtain an Audit
There are a few different ways an audit/review of a political subdivision can be obtained. North Dakota Century Code (NDCC) 54-10-15 states that audits/reviews of political subdivisions can be ordered by the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee, upon petition, or upon request by the governor or by the state court administrator. If any of these audits/reviews are performed, they are paid for by the political subdivision being audited.
Steps to Complete a Petition Audit
Below are the necessary steps to take to create a valid petition for an audit/review of a political subdivision.
- Identify a chief petitioner from the political subdivision (looking to request an audit/review) who can serve as the main contact for the State Auditor’s Office, should questions arise about the petition.
- Use our petition template to create the petition. The petition will be deemed confidential upon receipt by the State Auditor’s Office (N.D.C.C. 54-10-25.1 and 54-10-26).
- Submit the petition back to the State Auditor’s Office for review prior to circulating it to ensure viability. Petitions ready for review can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Once the petition is approved by the State Auditor’s Office, it can be circulated. The petition must be returned no later than 180 days from the approval of the petition. According to NDCC 54-10-15, the petition must have signatures from at least thirty-five percent of the qualified electors of the political subdivision voting at the preceding election or, in the case of school districts, the preceding school board election.
- After the petition is turned in, the signatures will be verified to determine that they are qualified electors of the appropriate subdivision and the required number of valid signatures have been collected.
- If an audit/review petition is certified, staff from the Office of the State Auditor would then schedule a meeting with a committee of petitioners to review their concerns. The audit staff would review the concerns to determine if there are sufficient financial concerns that warrant a petition audit.
If the audit team determines a petition audit should proceed, the team would then determine the scope of the audit/review. The audit/review may not include all the concerns identified by the petitioners. Once a certified petition is received, data relating to an audit/review are not considered public records and are exempt from open records laws until the final report has been published by the Office of the State Auditor. Once a report is final, the working papers of an issued report are public. At the discretion of the State Auditor, all or portion of the working papers of an issued audit/review may be declared confidential.
Questions and Answers about Petitions Audits
1. Who can begin the petition audit process?
Anyone can start the process to initiate a petition audit by submitting a petition using our template to the State Auditor's Office. The person(s) circulating the petition and collecting signatures has to be a qualified elector of the political subdivision including the person who submits the signatures to the State Auditor's Office, known as the chief petitioner, must be a qualified elector of the designated area.
2. Once a petition is on the list of audits to be performed, how long before work will begin?
Work begins on petition audits as soon as staff members are available. It is often several months before the audit can be scheduled.
3. How are petitioners informed of the progress of an audit?
The chief petitioner will be notified once the petition is certified, and again when the audit/review is scheduled. The results of the audit/review will be available to the petitioner(s) and the public once the final report is released per NDCC 54-10-26.
4. How is the public informed of the audit results?
At the conclusion of a petition audit/review, a press release will be issued. News releases and reports are available on the State Auditor’s website.
5. What happens if the auditor uncovers something like potential fraud or a large amount of money missing?
If information is uncovered that indicates ongoing criminal activity or fraud, the State Auditor’s Office informs the proper authorities as soon as possible. In less serious cases, the report will note the problem and recommend the proper authorities to correct the situation.
6. How are report/review recommendations enforced?
The State Auditor’s Office cannot require an entity to implement the recommendations but may resume audits being conducted by the state auditor until they are corrected per NDCC 54-10-14(6)).
Last Updated August 1, 2023
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