One of the first references to a state auditor can be found in records of the proceedings that led to the adoption of the Louisiana Constitution of 1845. While there is no specific mention of an auditor in that Constitution, it is clear that by 1848 Louisiana had a state auditor, as seen in legislation passed in the 1848 Extra Legislative Session. Initially, the position was an elected one and was part of the executive branch of state government.
In 1907, the Legislature created a “Special Agent” to the state auditor whose job was to travel around Louisiana and examine the books of every parish tax collector to make sure they were collecting all required taxes and sending the proper amount to the state. The Special Agent – or “traveling auditor” – also examined the records of every parish assessor to determine if they were correctly assessing all property.
Legislators abolished the Special Agent’s position in 1910 when they passed legislation creating a Supervisor of Public Accounts to take over those duties. The Supervisor of Public Accounts was appointed by and reported to the Governor. At the same time, he worked with and was directed by the state auditor.
Lawmakers made more changes in 1936 with an amendment to the state Constitution of 1921. The amendment eliminated the Office of the Supervisor of Public Accounts and created a Supervisor of Public Funds. As with the previous position, the Supervisor of Public Funds was appointed by and reported to the Governor. In addition, he assumed all of the same duties and responsibilities as the Supervisor of Public Accounts. (The amendment also created the state Department of Revenue and the position of Collector of Revenue to oversee it.)
Legislators ended the Office of the Supervisor of Public Funds and created the Office of the Legislative Auditor in 1962 with another amendment to the 1921 Constitution. With this amendment, the Auditor was moved under the oversight of the legislative branch, and all of the duties, responsibilities, and access to records given to the Supervisor of Public Funds were given to him. In addition, all records, funds, personnel, and other resources belonging to the Office of the Supervisor of Public Funds were transferred. The actual shift, however, did not happen until July 1, 1964, when a new Governor and administration took over.
In 1973, legislators established the Legislative Audit Advisory Council to provide general oversight of the Legislative Auditor’s operations and to serve as a mediator when audit recipients objected to or had questions about a report’s findings.
Louisiana’s current constitution – the Constitution of 1974 – deleted provisions in the 1921 Constitution related to the dual executive and legislative functions of the Legislative Auditor and gave the authority to the Legislature to determine the LLA’s duties and responsibilities. Article III, Section 11, of the 1974 Constitution describes it succinctly:
There shall be a legislative auditor responsible solely to the legislature. He shall serve as a fiscal advisor to it and shall perform the duties and functions provided by law related to auditing fiscal records of the state, its agencies, and political subdivisions. He shall be elected by the concurrence of a majority of the elected members of each house and may be removed by the concurrence of two-thirds of the elected members of each house.
Michael J. Waguespack was elected Legislative Auditor on April 19, 2021. A native of Louisiana, Mr. Waguespack has had a long and varied career. He graduated from LSU in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and took a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers (then Coopers & Lybrand) in Houston, TX. He moved back to Louisiana to the firm’s New Orleans office and worked there for four years before opening his own accounting firm in 1993 in Napoleonville. In 1999, Mr. Waguespack ran for and won the position of Sheriff of Assumption Parish. He took over as sheriff in 2000 and held the position until 2016, when he returned to the private sector. Since then, Mr. Waguespack has worked as the managing member of an accounting firm and chief financial officer for an industrial contractor, and has served as a member and vice chairman of the Louisiana Tax Commission. Mr. Waguespack is a licensed Certified Public Accountant and has more than 25 years of experience performing governmental audits, reviews, and compilations.
LLA’s main job is to oversee state and local government finances. But as Louisiana’s needs have changed, the LLA has evolved as well. Currently, staff members work in several areas:
Nearly 175 years after the idea of a state auditor was first broached, the LLA continues a long tradition, guided by the principles of its mission – “to foster accountability and transparency in Louisiana government by providing the Legislature and others with audit services, fiscal advice, and other useful information.”