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STATE AUDITOR
[Constitution, Article V, Section 12; NDCC Chapter 54-10]

The office of the Territorial Auditor was established by the Territorial Legislature in 1862 (S. L. 1862, Ch. 86). The Territorial Auditor was elected to a two-year term and served as the Territorial Librarian from 1862-1863. The Territorial Auditor was a member of the Territorial Board of Equalization (1865-1889), the Board of Trustees of Public Property (1887-1911), and from 1883-1889 had responsibility for the registration of insurance companies operating in the Territory. 

The office of the State Auditor was established by the North Dakota State Constitution. From 1889 to 1963 the State Auditor was elected to a two-year term. An amendment to the state constitution in 1964 expanded the State Auditor's term to four years. Since 1889 the State Auditor has been a constitutionally elected state official and has served on a wide variety of state agencies, boards, and commissions at one time or another. The State Auditor was to audit government agencies to determine whether appropriated money had been expended in accordance with legislative intent, whether collections and accounting of all state revenues were in accordance with state law, and whether money handled by any state agency or held in trust properly administered. The State Auditor was also charged to conduct audits of local governments (counties, cities, school districts, libraries, airports, water management districts, and park districts) that were not audited by private accounting firms. Other responsibilities included prescribing and establishing general accounting methods for state government agencies. To serve as State Auditor one must be a qualified elector of the state and at least twenty-five years old.  Since statehood there have been sixteen who have served as State Auditor including one woman, Berta E. Baker, who served from 1935-1956. Robert W. Peterson elected in 1973 was succeeded his son Robert R. Peterson.

In 2013 the office of the State Auditor consists of three divisions. Within the office is the Division of State Audit the largest of the three and responsible for auditing state agencies and the university system. This division conducts financial, compliance, performance, and information system audits and is located in the State Capitol with a branch office in Fargo. Also located in Fargo is the Division of Local Government audit charged with auditing counties, cities, school districts, and other political subdivisions. The Division of Royalty Audit conducts audits of the federal royalty payments from North Dakota oil, gas, and coal leases. The division is located in downtown Bismarck. The office of the State Auditor is subject to two peer reviews. The first covers audits by the Divisions of State Audit and Local Government Audit performed by the National State Auditor's Association (NSAA), and the second covers audits done by the Division of Royalty Audit. The State Auditor submits a biennial report to the Governor and Secretary of State and presents audit findings of state agencies to the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee.

CHRONOLOGY

1862       The office of the Territorial Auditor was established by the Territorial Legislature in 1862 (T. L. 1862, Ch. 86). The Auditor served as the Territorial Librarian from 1862-1863. The Territorial Auditor was elected to a two-year term.

1865       The Territorial Auditor was a member of the Territorial Board of Equalization (1865-1889).

1887       The Territorial Auditor served on the Board of Trustees of Public Property from 1887 to 1911 along with the Governor and Secretary of State (T. L. 1887, Ch. 162).

1883       From 1883 to 1889 the Auditor had responsibility for the registration of insurance companies operating in the Territory (T. L. 1883, Ch. 69).

1889       Elected by citizens of the state, the Auditor served for a two-year term (Constitution, 1889, Article III). The Commissioner of Insurance assumed the insurance duties.

1890       Ex-officio Commissioners of Public Printing included the Auditor, the Secretary of State, and State Treasurer (S. L. 1890, Ch. 119) and the State Auditor became a member of the Board of University and School Lands (S. L. 1890, Ch. 25). The Auditor was responsible for keeping an account with each county by requiring each county auditor to furnish an abstract of tax lists. Other legislation was required of the Auditor from this session (S. L. 1890, Ch. 183). The State Auditor served as a member of the State Board of Equalization.

1892       The Auditor served from 1892 to 1961 as a member of the State Board of Canvassers (Special Session, S. L. 1890, S.B. 1), later called the State Canvassing Board.

1893       The State Auditor served on Board of Capitol Commissioners (1893-1905) and as a member on the State Board of Auditors who served from 1893 to 1959 with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. The Auditor was required to examine the books of the State Treasurer (S. L. 1893, Ch. 48).

1895       The Auditor was a member of the Historical Commission/Board of Directors of the State Historical Society of North Dakota from 1895 to 1965 (S. L. 1895, Ch. 70) and served from 1895 to 1919 with the Governor and Secretary of State on the Emergency Commission which was established to review all extraordinary expenditures of state funds (S. L. 1895, Ch. 23).

1901       The Auditor served on the State Auditing Board from 1901 to 1919 and 1923 to 1973 which was established to approve payment of all claims against the state. Other members included the Governor and the Attorney General (S. L. 1901, Ch. 33). Legislation required the State Auditor to draw warrants on the State Treasurer to be paid out of the State Treasury (S. L. 1901, Ch. 211).

1913       The State Auditor served as a member of the Board of Immigration from 1913 to 1915 along with the Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, and the Attorney General for the purpose of encouraging immigration to North Dakota (S. L. 1913, Ch. 44). The State Auditor had responsibility until 1947 for preparation of the state budget (S. L. 1913, Ch. 63).

1915       The Auditor served as a member of the State Budget Board (S. L. 1915, Ch. 61) and was removed from the Immigration Board (S. L. 1915, Ch. 234).

1919       During a Special Session of the Legislature the following laws were changed or repealed. The Commissioners of Public Printing were repealed (S. L. 1919, Ch. 188). The State Auditor was removed from State Board of Equalization (S. L. 1919, Ch. 35), from the Emergency Commission (S. L. 1919, Ch. 34), and from the State Auditing Board (S. L. 1919, Ch. 21).

1923       The Legislative Assembly reinstated the State Auditor as a member of the State Auditing Board (S. L. 1923, Ch. 135).

1931       Legislation amended in detail the laws of 1913 prescribing the powers and duties of the State Auditor. The Auditor was required to superintend the fiscal affairs of the state by reporting to the Governor a statement of funds for the state and revenues, public expenditures from during the two preceding fiscal years, and a detailed estimate of the expenditures to be defrayed by the Treasury for the two ensuing fiscal years. The Auditor served as a member on numerous state boards included Equalization, State Canvassers, Trustees of Public Property, University and School Lands, the State Auditing Board, State Historical Society, State Board of Auditors, and Commissioners of Public Printing (S. L. 1931, Ch. 262).   

1961       Along with the Governor and others the Auditor served from 1961-1971 on a Civil Defense Advisory Council (S. L. 1961, Ch. 248), and from 1961-1979 on the Missouri Slope Agricultural and Fair Association (S. L. 1961, Ch. 332). The Auditor was removed from the State Board of Canvassers (S. L. 1961, Ch. 232).

1963       Legislation provided new requirements for executive and administrative agencies or departments concerning the printing and distribution of their official reports (S. L. 1963, Ch. 46).

1965       Voters approved a constitutional amendment regarding the term of office from two years to four years (S. L. 1965, Ch. 475). Also the State Auditor became a member of the Public Employees Retirement Board and was removed from the State Budget Board.

1967       Ten sections to the Century Code related changes [NDCC 54-10-13 to 54-10-23] concerning the duties of the State Auditor and county officials and involving penalties for obstructing or misleading the Auditor (S. L. 1967, Ch. 376).

1969       Legislation related to the powers of the Auditor by adding a subsection to the Century Code requiring the State Auditor to audit occupational and professional boards (S. L. 1969, Ch. 434). The Auditor was to have access to tax returns filed with the State Tax Commissioner (S. L. 1969, Ch. 435).

1971       Legislation related to the charges and actual costs for audits performed by the State Auditor.  This included counties and municipalities (S. L. 1971, Ch. 493).

1973       Legislation updated the subsection relating to audits by the State Auditor to occupational and professional boards (S. L. 1973, Ch. 418) and an amendment during a special session of the Legislative Assembly concerning auditing of political subdivisions (S. L. 1973, Ch. 419).

1975       Legislation created in 1911 requiring the State Auditor to draw warrants on the State Treasurer for payment of money to be paid out of the State Treasury was repealed (S. L. 1911, Ch. 211; S. L. 1975, Ch. 472). Legislation allowed for licensed public accountants to perform audits for occupational and professional boards, county agencies, and political subdivisions (S. L. 1975, Ch. 470). Audits were completed under the direction of the State Auditor (S. L. 1975, Ch. 144) upon the request of the Governor or others for which audits were not provided in the Century Code [NDCC 54-10-14].

1977       The State Auditor was required by law to audit the Emergency Commission (S. L. 1977, Ch. 483). Legislation authorized the State Auditor to examine information related to operations of governmental units subject to audit (S. L. 1977, Ch. 485) and other legislation related to confidential tax returns and other records filed by the Tax Commissioner (S. L. 1977, Ch. 486).

1983       A list of changes regarding political subdivisions audited by the State Auditor included municipalities, park districts, school districts, firemen’s relief association, airport authorities, public libraries, water resource districts, Garrison Diversion Conservancy, and rural fire protection districts, special education districts, vocational education centers, correction centers, recreation service districts, and weed boards. Specific requirements were listed regarding annual reports from certain offices audited by the State Auditor (S. L. 1983, Ch. 554).

1987       Legislation allowed the working papers of the State Auditor to be confidential and not considered a public record (S. L. 1987, Ch. 624).

1989       Legislation related to the requirements for political subdivisions requesting a state audit by petition or at the request of a board chairman (S. L. 1989, Ch. 369).

1991       The Legislature allowed for audits of state agencies to be conducted by either the State Auditor or by the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee (S. L. 1991, Ch. 575).

1993       Legislation related to the changes in requirements for audits of political subdivisions (S. L. 1993, Ch. 514).

1999       An amendment to the Century Code regarding the powers, duties, and responsibilities of the State Auditor included the authority to determine whether to audit the International Peace Garden as requested by the Board of Directors of the International Peace Garden (S. L. 1999, Ch. 451).

2003       Legislation changed the wording in the Century Code [NDCC 54-10-21] concerning the duties of the State Auditor on refusal or neglect by state officers who were to be audited (S. L. 2003, Ch. 465).  The confidentiality, preparation, and release of draft audits was addressed (S. L. 2003, Ch. 466).  Also amended was [NDCC 54-10-01] the annual audit of the North Dakota Lottery as required by law (S. L. 2003, Ch. 454).

2005       An amendment to the Century Code regarded the changes of the Auditor’s duties and access to the records of state offices (S. L. 2005, Ch. 477) and additional duties of the Auditor concerned the review of state agency audits and any work required by the federal government (S. L. 2005, Ch. 470).  Other legislation concerned adding a new section to the Century Code on duties of the State Auditor concerning audits of computer systems (S. L. 2005, Ch. 482).

2007       Legislation required a change to an amendment in the Century Code relating to information technology responsibilities of the State Auditor (S. L. 2007, Ch. 457). Additional legislation concerned political subdivisions and computer system audits (S. L. 2007, Ch. 458).

SERIES

30005 Administrative Files, 1891-1933.
30026 Audit Reports.
30027 Records of the Special Examination of the Home Building Association of North Dakota.
30028 Petitions and Reports of the Organization of Civil Townships. 1884-1958.
30029 Applications for Correction of Assessment and Abatement of Taxes, 1892-1894.
30030 Appropriations and Balance Ledger, 1887-1959.
30031 Bond Record, 1881-1934.
30032 List of Bonds, Mortgages, Record of Permanent School Funds, 1902-1907.
30024 Minutes of the State Board of Auditors.
31047 Record of Auditor’s Decisions Relating to Taxation, 1891-1893.
31048 State Auditing Board Minutes.
31318 Oil Inspection Department Reports, 1920.
31330 Warrant Register, 1889-1966.
31340 Statements of County Payments for Care of Tuberculosis Patients.
31438 State Mineral Tax List Record, 1923-1926.
31520 Attorney General Opinions, 1893-1899.
31680 Local Government Audit Reports.
31746 Political Subdivision Reports.

SOURCES

Gray, David P.  Guide to the North Dakota State Archives, 1985.
Laws of Dakota Territory.
Legislative History of North Dakota State Agencies: Richard J. Wolfert State Librarian. State Library.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Office of the State Auditor Website.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.

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