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Shemia Fagan speaks during the 2020 campaign for secretary of state. Fagan on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, gave Oregon lawmakers a preview of the audits of state agencies she plans for her office to conduct.

State agencies don’t like to be on the receiving end of a zinging audit from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.

Findings of mishandling public money and sloppy work make for embarrassing situations in the least for state agencies.

The more important outcomes can be: accountability and improvement in how the state is run. The 2018 audit of Oregon’s child welfare system is a great example.

As good as the auditors are, they only can do so many audits. Choosing which audits get done is a key decision. Legislators talked about that Thursday, Feb. 4, as Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and state auditors previewed their plans in the Joint Committee on Legislative Audits.

The plan includes a look at unemployment benefits, wildfire response, vaccine distribution, 911 response, Oregon’s mortgage interest deduction and more. Those are smart topics.

If anything, we wonder if it would be smarter to do many more. That would require more staff and expense.

Something cheaper that could be done would be for Fagan to try to make a splash with a news conference when audits note significant problems.

Of course, some people would call that grandstanding. The subject of the audit won’t like it one bit. Fagan has enough good sense to know when to use the bully pulpit.

Former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson did it with the 2018 child welfare audit.

We can’t say it would have made any difference, but what if state auditors and other state staff warned the public long and loud about the problems of modernizing the state’s delivery of unemployment benefits? We can image there would have been some clamor — from public and the lawmakers they elect.

We all know how that turned into a mess when the pandemic hit.

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