Just this week, the Office of the Legislative Auditor General of the State of Utah released a report to the Utah Legislature on UTOPIA. The report, titled A Performance Audit of the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency rehashes prior criticisms of UTOPIA and tells the abridged story of the Auditor's understanding of UTOPIA's financial troubles.
While one can accept the report as truthful, it certainly is not comprehensive. Jesse Harris, of FreeUTOPIA notes that leaving out certain pieces of information taint the presumed impartiality of the report. From Jesse:
The Legislative Auditor General has published an audit of UTOPIA, and, as expected, it drags a fair amount of ancient history back into the spotlight. The report concludes that additional accountability will alleviate the problems that UTOPIA has experienced, but it missed the mark on a number of points.
The Audit Scope and Objectives are spelled out in the beginning as:
Members of the Utah Legislature asked for an audit of UTOPIA so residents of UTOPIA member cities might know how the organization has used its funds. Legislators also asked for a review the organization’s general management practices. To address their concerns, we developed an audit plan to review the following areas:
- The size and use of UTOPIA’s debt financing
- The causes leading to UTOPIA’s current financial condition
- UTOPIA’s management and board governance practices
While there are many bar graphs, pie charts, and dollar signs in the report and it seems to meet the scope and objectives, financial information alone does not explain UTOPIA's troubles. The first place to look is close to home.
From the beginning, UTOPIA has had to overcome difficult odds in a hostile legislative environment. As we note on our Community Broadband Map, the State of Utah effectively requires that community networks function as wholesale-only. The mandate puts them at a significant financial disadvantage from the beginning, severely limiting the amount of revenue they can collect...Read more