BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota state auditor will inspect travel-related spending in Gov. Doug Burgum’s office, more than a month after the Republican was criticized for attending the Super Bowl as a guest of Xcel Energy.
State Auditor Joshua Gallion, an elected Republican, notified Burgum in a letter last week that the review would examine his office’s “travel-related expenditures and use of state resources.” The review will also cover the final 10 months of former GOP Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s administration.
Gallion said he couldn’t comment on the audit because it’s ongoing, and wouldn’t say what prompted it.
“At this point, everything is confidential,” he said. “We’re hoping to get it done within the next few months.”
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Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor’s office would cooperate with the audit. He said it will be the second since Burgum took office, after the first audit ended “in a clean report with no deficiencies.”
“The Office of the Governor has worked to identify efficiencies in state government and has been responding to and engaging directly with constituents across the state on a variety of issues while using state resources responsibly,” Nowatzki said in an emailed statement.
The Associated Press obtained the auditor’s letter through an open records request.
Burgum was criticized even from within his own party for watching the Super Bowl with first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum last month in Minnesota in a stadium suite sponsored by the Minneapolis utility. Burgum later said he reimbursed Xcel Energy for all costs related the weekend trip — almost $40,000.
Burgum said before the game that he planned to use the opportunity to talk with Xcel officials about their service and infrastructure in North Dakota.
The state auditor’s office inspects the books of government agencies and North Dakota’s university system. It also conducts “performance audits,” designed to look at how agencies can operate more efficiently.
The auditor’s office routinely finds problems with agencies that it reviews. In 2014, an audit of North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department found scores of discrepancies with the agency’s practices, including improper payments to employees and a number of guns missing from a volunteer hunter education program.
An audit of the state Land Department two years ago found ethical violations that included employees getting free meals and booze from contractors who manage state assets.
The auditing agency itself also has taken criticism when Gallion’s predecessor, Bob Peterson, gave office workers paid time off for outings that included volleyball, bowling and horseshoe-pitching. The so-called “Bob days” were halted after the practice was disclosed.
During his campaign for governor, Burgum, a wealthy former software executive, often talked about “reinventing government,” shaking up the “good old boy” party establishment and reining in “runaway spending” as the state’s oil boom was fading.
Burgum’s office has said an ethics policy for the governor and his staff is being drafted, and that it was started before the Super Bowl trip.