SANTA FE, N.M. — An independent audit of the office of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has taken note of an off-the-books fund used for social events, and recommended policy changes even though its expenses are off limits from review.
State Auditor Tim Keller highlighted the results Tuesday of the independent audit that shows excess balances in the governor’s so-called contingency fund are rolled over from year to year without oversight or legal justification.
A spokesman for the Republican governor says no audit has raised the issue before and that the governor’s office follows longstanding precedent in not reverting money to the state general fund until the governor leaves office. Contingency funds, the governor’s office noted in its response to the audit, predate New Mexico’s statehood in 1912.
Public accounting firm Axiom LLC was chosen by the governor’s office to perform the audit for fiscal year 2015. It made a note that the contingency fund is kept in a separate bank account that is not included in the balance sheet of the governor’s office — and is not subject to audit.
At the same time, Axiom said an excess balance of $66,000 was rolled over into the current fiscal year, and the firm recommended changes that would return unspent funds after each fiscal year to New Mexico’s general fund.
Keller, a Democratic former state lawmaker, wrote a letter to Martinez earlier this month to say that appropriations at other agencies revert to the general fund at year’s end unless otherwise specified, and that the governor’s contingency fund also should do so.
The state currently supplies the contingency fund with $72,000 a year — money that is used at the governor’s discretion on dinners and receptions, along with gifts for protocol meetings or spending on gestures of condolence or congratulations.
Chris Sanchez, a spokesman for Martinez, said the governor goes beyond a requirement that she provide an annual report about the use of the fund. “We go above and beyond that requirement and issue quarterly reports that outline the categories and amounts of the expenditures,” he said.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for specific expenditures from the fund. Summaries were available through the end of September 2015.
Keller said the summaries are insufficient to guarantee good accounting practices.