The good news, a government watchdog agency tells us, is that no one stole any money from a $1.1 million federal grant given to a hastily organized but politically connected nonprofit.

The bad news, says the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA), is that there were no safeguards in place that would have stopped the officers of the Maine Green Energy Alliance from dipping their hands into the till, and even if they didn’t steal public money, they didn’t appear to use it very wisely. About $500,000 was spent on an energy conservation program that had signed up to retrofit only 50 houses.

When public money is involved, this good news is not nearly good enough. Lawmakers should be relieved that the alliance was put out of business before things got too far out of hand – and only after media reports publicly raised serious questions about the organization – but not lose sight of the fact that this was a case of being lucky, not smart.

What the OPEGA report found was that the Green Energy Alliance was too new to handle the money it was awarded by the federal government. The alliance had poor financial controls, did not follow federal standards in hiring and purchasing and ran up $272,000 in questionable expenses. The Maine Green Energy Alliance, the report said, was “an organization that was not yet set up to administer, account for and make decisions about use of those funds in a manner expected of entities that spend public funds.”

Oversight responsibilities for the new organization belonged to Efficiency Maine Trust, an agency created by the Legislature that uses a surcharge on electric bills and grant funding to promote energy conservation. To its credit, the agency shut down the alliance when reports of its problems leaked out.

But it is not the only organization in state government that has such an oversight role, and lawmakers should be focused on making sure that all of them can account for the public funds under their control.

Given that serious task, lawmakers should not waste time searching for a “leak” in connection with this newspaper’s reporting of the observations of people who had read advance copies of the OPEGA report a week before its release. Lawmakers should welcome public interest in matters like this.

Rather than create an environment where people are afraid to speak out, members of the Legislature should be encouraging state officials to shed light on other dark corners of state government where public money is being spent.

This is clearly an area where no news would not be good news.