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Archive for Monday, January 6, 1992

KEEPING TABS

January 6, 1992

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— Barbara Hinton may not look vicious enough for the part, but as the state's new legislative post auditor, the 41-year-old Lawrence resident is Kansas' chief bureaucratic watchdog.

In a recent interview in her new Topeka office, Hinton explained the role she and her 19-member staff have been assigned as the Kansas Division of Legislative Post Audit.

"Formally, we are the Legislature's oversight arm. On an informal basis, we're the eyes and the ears."

Hinton was hired by the Legislative Post Audit Committee as post auditor following a nationwide search to find a replacement for Meredith Williams, who resigned in July to accept appointment as executive secretary of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

Hinton had been acting post auditor since Williams' departure. She joined the division in June 1977, became an audit supervisor in 1983 and a deputy post auditor in June 1988.

A LAWRENCE resident since graduating from Topeka's Hayden High School in 1968, Hinton earned two degrees from Kansas University: a bachelor's degree in English in 1974 and a master's degree in journalism in 1981.

She commutes to Topeka daily and noted her agency recently moved to the Merchants National Bank building, Eighth and Jackson streets, where her office now overlooks the Capitol grounds.

Hinton's husband, Ron Hinton, is a Lawrence metalsmith, and sitting on her desk is one of his sculptures, a piece titled "Sequential Connections."

"This is one of the pieces I couldn't stand not to have, so I made him give it to me," she said. "I have two lives. A government life and an artist's life."

Hinton said six of the 19 people on her staff also live in Lawrence and commute to Topeka daily.

"It's always been real high because they recruit from KU," she said, referring to the office's personnel procedures.

AS TO THE division's watchdog role, Hinton said, "I think the purpose is to work with the Legislature to improve the status of programs that are operating, to make sure that when monies are appropriated for certain purposes, they are spent for those purposes.

"If they want to establish a program to get people off welfare, we'll come in a few months later and see if the program works."

She said the division just finished a series of six audits of the Kansas Public Employment Retirement System.

"Right now, we're working on an audit of the Kansas Financial Information System and the problems the state has had bringing that (computerized system) up," she said.

During the first part of 1992, her staff has been instructed by the Legislative Post Audit Committee, a joint legislative body, to perform an audit on the KPERS purchase of the Ward Parkway Shopping Center in Kansas City, Mo.

THE OTHER audit planned is one of the state's mainframe computer, she said, noting, "We have four audit teams and that (both audits) will pretty much keep all of them busy."

Although the audits put state agencies under the microscope, Hinton said her office avoided being controversial.

"The thing that we are best at is giving the Legislature independent and unbiased information. I consider we provide them with a piece of the pie," she explained.

"They hear from state agencies and lobbyists and people all of whom have a particular position. And we don't.

"I think that's real beneficial to have this type of office."

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