Located in the state capitol in Montgomery, Montgomery County, the Office of Alabama State Auditor is responsible for overseeing and examining the financial records, as they relate to property, of all areas of local government in the state of Alabama. The office also has the authority to conduct audits of the records of the Office of the State Treasurer and the Department of Finance. It is housed within the executive branch overseen by the Office of the Governor but is not a cabinet-level agency. The State Auditor is elected every four years in a popular election.
The Office of State Auditor originated as the Comptroller of Public Accounts under the statutes of the Mississippi Territory, which was established in 1798. The office was created by an act of the territorial legislative council and the U.S. House of Representatives in March 1806, authorizing the governor to appoint an auditor of public accounts. The office continued, under the same title and responsibilities, in the Alabama Territory after its creation by Congress in March 1817.
When Alabama achieved statehood in 1819, its Constitution designated the Comptroller of Public Accounts as the Office of Auditor of Public Accounts. The 1861 Constitution then amended the process of selecting the auditor to biennial elections by both houses of the legislature. The 1868 Constitution changed the official title to Auditor and allowed the state’s electors to choose the auditor when they voted for representatives. When the Constitution was revised again in 1875, the office was renamed State Auditor, and the term in office was reduced from four years to two years. The 1901 Constitution restored the term to four years.
The duties of the office have varied greatly since its creation. Originally, it was tasked with auditing all receipts and disbursements made by the state and all aspects of the state’s fiscal affairs. These records and transactions included detailed accounts of the financial operations of all state departments in addition to all taxes and revenues paid into the Alabama treasury, all schools funds, trust funds, special funds, and funds from the sale of public lands. At the end of each legislative session, the State Auditor was charged with printing all revenue laws passed in each session and had the authority to pursue all tax defaulters as well as instruct tax collectors and assessors in their duties. In February 1860, the office was authorized to issue certificates to insurance companies enabling them to conduct business in the state. (This duty was transferred to the Secretary of State in 1897.) In February 1867, the State Auditor began paying pensions to disabled Confederate veterans or their widows and orphans and providing payments to disfigured veterans for artificial limbs. In March 1901, all pension payments made by county and state pension boards were transferred to the Auditor’s office.
In June 1915, the legislature placed the Auditor in charge of all land under state jurisdiction, including all land sold for unpaid taxes, all land in the state set aside by the federal government to be used to generate revenue for schools, salt reserves (also set aside by the federal government for state benefit), and all swamp and flooded land. All documents related to such lands, except for those required by law to be kept with the Office of the Secretary of State, were to be maintained by the State Auditor as well. (Land records had been transferred to the State Land Commission when it was created in 1899 and were later transferred to the Commission of Forestry.)
In 1939, the State Auditor was tasked with performing a post-audit of accounts and records of the Department of Finance and the Office of the State Treasurer. The Auditor also became responsible for making a complete report to the governor each fiscal year of all audited records and documents in the Department of Finance and to report all taxes and revenues collected and paid into the Treasury. This information became part of the annual financial report of the state. The responsibility for examining and auditing the fiscal records and accounts of all state departments, agencies, boards, commissions, and officers was transferred from the State Auditor to the State Department of Examiners of Public Accounts upon its creation in 1947. In 1969, the state established a Property Inventory Control Division in the Office of State Auditor to maintain and audit records of all non-consumable property owned by the state valued at $100 or greater. The value was increased to $500 and above in 1995. Property records are currently maintained by the office in an electronic database.
The State Auditor serves on the State Board of Adjustment, the State Board of Appointments for Registrars, the Penny Trust Fund, and the State Board of Compromise and as an ex-officio member of the Alabama Education Authority. The Office of State Auditor has a staff of nine employees including the State Auditor. The Auditor’s Office is funded solely from the State General Fund. Its offices are located in the historic Alabama Capitol and in the Alabama State House. The current State Auditor is Andrew Sorrell, elected to office in 2022.