Unsung Heroes

Editorial


Government is not our primary beat at Arkansas Business, but we’re still part of the news industry that has traditionally and willingly accepted the role of government watchdog. Ten fingers is barely enough to count the elected officials convicted of corruption in the past few years, so it’s clear there’s plenty to keep an eye on.

But good government cannot be left to whistleblowers willing to spill the beans when they see things they know aren’t right. The Freedom of Information Act is a tool for citizens and journalists alike, but even that depends on there being adequate manpower and expertise to find and interpret documents. And the number of local journalists able to do that is vanishingly small … and vanishing.

That’s why Arkansas Legislative Audit is so important. It is literally someone’s job to check and test the financial transactions of every taxpayer-funded institution and agency in the state on a regular basis. Unlike the State Police or the FBI, Legislative Audit doesn’t come around only when crime is suspected. “We are not a ‘gotcha’ agency,” Legislative Auditor Roger Norman told our reporter for a feature that appeared last week. But state audits do catch crooks on a regular basis.

Kevin Smith, who inherited an even worse mess than he feared when he assumed the office of mayor of Helena-West Helena at the beginning of the year, said the state auditors were “the first people I sought out when I got elected.”

At a time when self-serving politicians are telling Americans that neither the bureaucratic “deep state” nor the journalistic “enemies of the people” can be trusted, we are persuaded that both forms of public service are as vital as ever. And that while we work separately, we share a common goal of making sure that government works for the people.