The Democratic candidate for state auditor is criticizing the Republican who currently holds the job for failing to more quickly uncover information about questionable spending in the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.

Republican State Auditor Dave Vaudt released an audit last week, showing the former administrator of the Alcoholic Beverages Division bought $23,000 worth of artwork from one of his wife’s friends, purchased an $1,100 industrial-strength dishwasher for the employee break-room and paid a contractor a million dollars long before any renovations of the division’s warehouse were done.

Jon Murphy, the Democrat challenging Vaudt in November, says the audit raises some “major” concerns. “Apparently it took over a year for the auditor’s office to get answers to questions to help complete this particular audit,” Murphy says.

 “And I’m concerned that the auditor didn’t compel answers in a more timely fashion in order to complete the audit and make sure Iowans were getting the information about where their tax dollars were being spent.” Murphy says the questionable spending occurred in calendar year 2008.

“As state auditor, if I have an administrator or somebody that I’m auditing that has questionable expenses, they won’t be allowed to go two weeks, let alone over a year, to answer questions that are important to completing a state audit,” Murphy says. “…Here we are in the middle of 2010 and we’re finally getting answers. That’s completely unacceptable. It doesn’t show the characteristics of a tough taxpayers’ watchdog.” Murphy proposes posting the state budget on-line so “Iowans can actually see how their money is being spent.”

Vaudt issued a written statement early this afternoon. “I find it interesting that my opponent weighs in on the audit of the Alcoholic Beverages Division – especially since my opponent lacks the qualifications, and is not licensed, under Iowa law to conduct audits,” Vaudt said. “His comments demonstrate the lack of even a basic understanding of the audit process and the responsibilities of the State Auditor.”

Vaudt also questioned Murphy’s assertion that taxpayers could help identify questionable spending online if the state budget were posted on the Internet.  “That’s ironic considering all the questionable expenditures were not only processed, but also available online for tracking, by my opponent’s employer, the Governor’s administration, which failed to identify the questionable expenditures,” Vaudt said. “Transparency is not accomplished by simply putting up a slick web site.”

Murphy has taken a leave of absence from his job as director of the Iowa Office for State-Federal Relations for Governor Culver to run for state auditor.

(This story was updated at 12:25 p.m.)