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EDITORIAL: Audit of Nevada coronavirus funds is much needed

The government isn’t known for prudent spending. That’s why an audit of Nevada’s coronavirus funds is a no-brainer — regardless of the Sisolak administration’s testing scandal.

Last week, state Sen. Scott Hammond, a Republican, requested an audit into how Nevada spent public funds under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency declarations. During the pandemic, the federal government spent an unprecedented amount of money. Some of it was for coronavirus testing and mitigation. Other funds shored up state budgets and helped businesses and individuals devastated by heavy-handed government edicts and other pandemic-related challenges.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of that money was lost to fraud. As NBC News has reported, more than $100 billion was stolen outright. That total could be as high as $500 billion, although it’s unlikely the true amount will ever be known.

Given these realities alone, an audit detailing where Nevada’s virus money went would be welcome. But Mr. Hammond’s letter notes another reason for a thorough review in the Silver State.

As you may have read in the Review-Journal, a recent ProPublica report “revealed what appears to be a significant pay-to-play scheme involving Northshore Laboratories and federal funds for COVID-19 testing facilities in Nevada,” Mr. Hammond wrote. He continued, “It appears that proper vetting for this company never occurred because of political connections and pressure from well-connected individuals with access to the governor’s office.”

This is a major scandal. State officials eventually discovered that Northshore Clinical Labs was missing 96 percent of positive cases. The company received preferential treatment from state officials despite concerns from those lower down the food chain. The company’s connections to a Sisolak donor and a powerful lobbyist raise questions, although a direct pay-to-play link is tenuous at this point. A separate scandal is that state officials tried to hide this from Nevadans.

It also shows how money can be misspent. Nationwide, Northshore raked in more than $150 million from the federal government for COVID testing. It’s not enough to know where the money went. Taxpayers should be assured that they received value for their funds.

“This isn’t political at all. I’m not on the ballot,” Mr. Hammond said. “This is just something the Legislature needs to do, have oversight over the executive.”

He’s right. Accountability requires a thorough review of how state virus funds were used. Lawmakers shouldn’t abdicate their responsibility when someone from their political party runs the executive branch. Audit the funds.

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