Gov. Asa Hutchinson this week signed three executive orders providing recommendations for use of federal infrastructure funds, aligning audits in certain executive branch agencies, and creating the Energy Resources Council to improve coordination and planning during extreme weather and other emergencies that threaten the state’s power and communications grids.
“Each of these Executive Orders will improve coordination and help guide resources within state government,” Hutchinson said. “The Infrastructure Planning Advisory Committee will recommend how to best use our portion of the federal money that is being returned to the state.
“The winter storms in February were a reminder of the toll that a natural disaster can take, which is why I have created the Arkansas Energy Resources Council. The members of the council will facilitate ongoing conversations between state agencies and leaders in the energy sector so that we are as prepared as possible to deal with extreme events that can cause power outages and interfere with communication.
“The third executive order requires certain auditors in cabinet-level departments to report to the Office of Internal Audit. This change will further enhance the integrity of our audits and give taxpayers confidence that state agencies are following the best practices of internal auditors.”
The three executive orders and an explanation of each:
EO 21-19 creates the Infrastructure Planning Advisory Committee. On November 15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. The Act provides $1.2 trillion in grants and dedicated spending for infrastructure projects, capital assets, and workforce development. With this order, the Governor creates the Infrastructure Planning Advisory Committee composed of state agency personnel to identify best practices and procedures to ensure the State of Arkansas realizes the maximum relief and benefits available under the Act.
EO 21-20 amends EO 18-01 regarding the Office of Internal Audit. In order to comply with the International Standard for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing #1110.A1, independence of internal auditors is a necessity. Currently, six cabinet level departments outside of the Office of Inspector General have internal auditors on staff. This executive order will require those auditors to functionally report to the Office of Internal Audit. This change will allow for a more consistent audit process throughout the executive branch agencies, additional oversight of the auditing process, and assurance of independence in objectivity and auditing judgment.
EO 21-21 creates the Arkansas Energy Resources Council, a recommendation from the Energy Resources Planning Task Force, which Governor Hutchinson created on March 3, 2021, after historic winter storms in Arkansas. The purpose of the task force was to evaluate the ability of Arkansas’s critical energy resources and infrastructure to withstand extreme events. The Task Force heard from more than 30 stakeholders and released a report that outlined findings and recommendations. One recommendation was to create the Arkansas Energy Resources Council, which is to meet at least once a year and is composed of state agency personnel and stakeholder representatives. The Council will facilitate technical and policy discussion among regulators and energy stakeholders and will develop and maintain educational materials on best practices regarding preparedness and communication in advance and during events that may disrupt the supply of critical energy resources.