Governor Asa Hutchinson signed three Executive Orders on Monday that provide recommendations for use of federal infrastructure funds, align audits in certain executive agencies, and create the Energy Resources Council to improve coordination during extreme weather and other emergencies that threaten the state’s power and communications grids.
The signing of the new Executive Orders follows the recent Arkansas General Assembly Special Sessions, at which state legislators passed eight bills, including a historic tax cut measure.
The Infrastructure and Jobs Act signed into law by President Biden on Nov. 15, 2021, provides $1.2 trillion in grants and dedicated spending for infrastructure projects, capital assets, and workforce development. With order EO 21-19, the Governor creates the Infrastructure Planning Advisory Committee composed of state agency personnel to identify best procedures to ensure the Arkansas realizes the maximum relief and benefits available under the Act.
“Each of these Executive Orders will improve coordination and help guide resources within state government,” Governor 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.
On March 3, 2021, following historic winter storms in Arkansas, Governor Hutchinson created the Energy Resources Planning Task Force. Now, EO 21-05 creates the Arkansas Energy Resources Council. The purpose of the task force was to evaluate the ability of Arkansas’ 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 discussion among regulators and energy stakeholders and will develop educational materials on best practices regarding preparedness and communication for events that may disrupt the supply of critical energy resources.
“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.
EO 21-20 amends previous Executive Order 18-01 regarding the Office of Internal Audit. In order to comply with the International Standard for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing, independence of internal auditors is necessary. 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 report to the Office of Internal Audit, which will allow for a more consistent audit process throughout executive agencies, additional oversight of the auditing process and assurance of independence in objectivity and auditing judgment.
“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.”