Public service instead of partisanship is what Iowa needs according to State Auditor Rob Sand, the Democratic incumbent for the seat. Sand is seeking his second term in the auditor’s office.
“I like the work that we’re doing, and I think we’re doing it in a way that shows people that politics doesn’t have to be awful,” says Sand, who says his campaign centers on his commitment to anti-partisanship rather than party lines, and endeavors to cultivate a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness with Iowans.
Prioritizing anti-partisan trustworthiness means that public engagement and transparency are all part of the way Sand conducts himself. One thing he currently does and wants to continue going forward is reaching out to Iowans through social media and making himself available for any questions they might have. Sand currently holds weekly Facebook Lives every Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. He calls these sessions “Transparency Tuesdays” and invites all Iowans to attend what he describes as a virtual town hall.
Sand says he believes these opportunities for connection with Iowans are helpful when it comes to transparency and building trust.
One of the best pieces of feedback that Sand says he's gotten from his Transparency Tuesdays is that, since inflation and people’s tax burdens are high priorities for Iowans, responsible and efficient tax dollar spending is more important than ever.
“One of the best things that we can do – one of the only things we can do – to address that is to improve government efficiency,” Sand says. “Because government vehicles, police cruisers, they’re paying higher gas prices too, right? And the more we can squeeze out of every dollar that gets paid in taxes, the more we can get done without raising taxes.”
Sand pointed to the Public Innovations & Efficiencies (PIE) program that he created in 2019. The program aims to save taxpayer dollars by rewarding fiscal efficiency in government entities. Sand’s PIE program has been so successful here in Iowa that Mississippi State Auditor Shadrack White has implemented it in his state also.
Sand says that the PIE program went from over 300 to over 500 participating entities throughout Iowa from the first to the second year of the program, and that it saw an average increase in the number of best practices in place by over 20% in the same timeframe.
“Helping cities, counties and school districts save money is something that is hugely important to everybody – everybody, right? Democrat, Republican, Independent. No matter what your politics, no matter who you are. It’s always nice to get a good deal, and that includes for your tax dollar.”
Sand says that going forward, he’d like to expand the PIE Program.
“I’d like to get that growing to the point where it’s almost something that most Iowans are like ‘Wait a minute, why isn’t my city council participating in PIE?’ You know? That it’s almost expected of them, because again, I think it’s a great engine for saving money.”
Another issue that Sand wants to address moving forward is the special investigations that the auditor’s office conducts.
“Lots of small-town clerks stealing money,” Sand says. “One of the things that is a very important piece of why people do that is opportunity. They see that no one’s looking, so they feel temptation to do it. I think the reduction of temptation is something that we could actually do a lot for.”
Sand wants to discourage theft of public funds by making clerks more accountable using the internet and public knowledge.
“Make it slightly harder for somebody to do something they shouldn’t do, and they’re less likely to do it. It’s not complicated," Sand said. "And so, what I would like to do is get a program in place where we take bank statements of accounts that have public funds in them and put them available online very quickly. Because one of the things that we see regularly is people stealing money because no one’s looking.”
Along that vein, Sand addressed the recent story about Iowa Workforce Development paying thousands of dollars in unemployment funds to either dead or incarcerated people, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we saw was Iowa Workforce Development paid out about $150,000 to dead people for unemployment…And then about $115,000 to incarcerated people who are also not eligible for unemployment. We shouldn’t do that. I think that Iowa Workforce Development certainly, at the time, had their hands full, but that doesn’t excuse what happened. It was the middle of the pandemic. They were buried under an avalanche of applications for unemployment by people who had lost their jobs.”
Nevertheless, Sand thinks it’s fair for Iowans to ask questions when tax dollars are misused like they were.
“I do think that a fair question for Iowans to ask is ‘Wait a minute. We’re sitting on billions of dollars in surplus. We just lost a quarter of a million dollars to payments that shouldn’t have gone out. Shouldn’t we just have hired one more person to look at this stuff?’ That would’ve been a great investment. If we could have saved $250,000 by paying someone $60,000 a year to make sure this wasn’t happening, that’d be a great investment.”
Overall, as Sand looks ahead to this November’s election, his goals are to continue the work he’s already done and keep pushing to save tax dollars and insist on accountability – all while working across party lines.
“Look, first term, we uncovered more misspent money than any other state auditor in their first term, so we’re going to keep going after waste, fraud and abuse. We have a great track record on it from the last four years,” says Sand, who prior to being elected state auditor, worked for seven years as a prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office dealing with public corruption.
“I have a decade of experience in going after people in both parties when they need to be gone after. We’ll keep doing that.”
Sand says he wants to maintain an office that is run by people from all parties, and that he will continue to speak out based on what he thinks is right instead of party lines.
“What you can expect is that I’ll continue to do public service instead of partisanship.”