The governor's office provided this curated photo of the lectern at the center of podiumgate.

The state Legislature’s top auditor said today an investigation into Gov. Sarah Sanders’ controversial purchase of a $19,029.25 lectern is expected to wrap up in the coming weeks and should yield a report by the end of March.

“Field work will continue at least through next week,” Roger Norman, the head of the audit agency charged with getting to the bottom of the saga, told a panel of lawmakers Thursday. “We have sought to gather all relevant communications and financial records surrounding the purchase and reimbursement of the podium.” (The terms are often used interchangeably, but technically it’s a lectern, not a podium.)

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Legislative auditor Roger Norman

“Barring no delays in the finalization process, we anticipate a final report by the end of March,” Norman said, adding that his staff has so far “formally interviewed 20 individuals involved in the purchase of the podium or reimbursement to the state for the purchase of the podium.”

You can watch his full comments to the executive subcommittee of the Legislative Joint Audit Committee here, around the 11:37 mark.

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Sanders’ purchase of the pricey lectern first became an issue when Blue Hog attorney and blogger Matt Campbell — now an investigative reporter at the Arkansas Times — came across a mysterious expense in the ledgers of the governor’s office and dug in.

A series of squirrelly responses to questions about the purchase only piqued Campbell’s interest further. Then came an anonymous whistleblower’s allegations in September about altered records, public documents being improperly withheld, and state employees shuttling flash drives back and forth between government offices to avoid a paper trail. The controversy grew until even some Republican legislators began demanding answers.

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The audit was launched back in October at the request of state Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R-Texarkana). But in the months since, people have been getting antsy about the status of the investigation. What’s taking so long?

Norman said today he would not be taking questions, but he appeared to address the lengthy timeline of the investigation.

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“We appreciate your patience in this process,” he said. “We have proceeded in a thorough, methodical manner. For continuity’s sake, the same staff members were involved in all interviews. We also had some delays because of the holidays — Thanksgiving and Christmas — and we lost some time because of the inclement weather in January.”

Norman said Legislative Audit staff “began work on the audit immediately upon the approval of the committee on October 13.” Staff began holding interviews the week of Oct. 16, he said.

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When the final report is ready, it can be released early by the co-chairs of the Joint Audit Committee, presented at a special meeting of the committee, or placed on the agenda and presented at the panel’s next regularly scheduled meeting.