(a) The Commission may, on its own motion and whenever it may be necessary in the performance of its duties, investigate and examine the condition and management of public utilities or of any particular public utility. In conducting such investigation the Commission may proceed either with or without a hearing as it may deem best, but shall make no order without affording the parties affected thereby notice and hearing.
(b) If after such an investigation, or investigation and hearing, the Commission, in its discretion, is of the opinion that the public interest shall be served by an appraisal of any properties in question, the investigation of any particular construction, the audit of any accounts or books, the investigation of any contracts, or the practices, contracts or other relations between the public utility in question and any holding or finance agency with which such public utility may be affiliated, it shall be the duty of the Commission to report its findings and recommendation to the Governor and Council of State with request for an allotment from the Contingency and Emergency Fund to defray the expense thereof, which may be granted as provided by law for expenditures from such fund or may be denied. Provided, however, that the Commission is authorized to order any such appraisal, investigations, or audit to be undertaken by a competent, qualified, and independent firm selected by the Commission, the cost of such appraisal, investigation or audit to be borne by the public utility in question. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Chapter, the Commission is authorized to initiate a full and complete management audit of any public utility company once every five years, by a competent, qualified, and independent firm, such audit to thoroughly examine the efficiency and effectiveness of management decisions among other factors as directed by the Commission. The cost of such audit is to be borne by the particular public utility subject to the audit; provided, however, that carriers subject to regulation by and auditing of the Interstate Commerce Commission shall not be required to bear the expense of additional audit of accounts or management audit required hereunder. (1931, c. 455; 1933, c. 134, s. 8; c. 307, s. 16; 1941, c. 97; 1963, c. 1165, s. 1; 1975, c. 867, s. 4.)