State auditor laments staffing shortage, lack of audits in first 100 days report

Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness during a press conference at the Old State House in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — How does Delaware’s new state auditor define “eroded?”

Let Kathleen “Kathy” McGuiness count the ways.

“ … a 50-percent staff vacancy rate and a number of pending audits and reports,” she said Thursday morning during a 15-minute presentation detailing her first 100 days in office and the plans ahead to remedy the supposed shortcomings.

Also “Mandates were going unfilled because there wasn’t enough staff to do what needed to be done.

“We were at risk (of not) complying with auditing standards because as of Jan. 2 we did not have enough senior level auditors to do levels of review work of in-house and contracted audit engagements.

“There was a lot of time being spent by auditors doing office administrative work and not auditing.”

Speaking before a crowd of 30 at Delaware’s Old Statehouse, recapped early accomplishments including:

•Finishing and releasing pending audits and investigations.

•Recruiting and hiring 12 new staff members “focused on creating an inclusive workforce representative of all the First State’s population.

•Reorganizing the staff — separating auditing and non-editing duties, and updating operating procedures.

•Moving all employees to one floor in the Townsend building to increase the auditor’s ability to manage staff and better workflow.

Former Auditor Tom Wagner, a Republican, opted not to seek re-election last year, ending a 29-year tenure. Democrat Ms. McGuiness bested Republican James Spadola in the general election in November 2018. She’s the first female state auditor in Delaware history

Three town halls in Kent, Sussex and New Castle counties are part of the aggressive push “to explain the importance of this office, and the role it plays in state government to protect their hard-earned tax dollars,” Ms. McGuiness said.

Additionally, “We promoted ways to report suspected fraud, waste and abuse, keeping in mind that the public serves as a key partner for our office by being an extra set of eyes and ears to support suspicious activity.”

Meeting the public will continue with upcoming “Call to Action Coffees” statewide designed “to continue a dialogue with people and restore relevancy to the Auditor’s Office, according to Ms. McGuiness.

More staffing sought

Appearing before the Joint Finance Committee in February, the auditor pushed for increased staffing levels and capacity to a position not seen in nearly 10 years.

Social media communication through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is a priority, along with an easier to navigate website and added accessibility to information. Thursday’s press conference was streamed on Facebook Live.

Hired by Ms. McGuiness, the auditor’s office will itself be audited by an outside contractor to look at past, present and future conditions. A final report is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Describing it as “unacceptable,” Ms. McGuiness lamented a supposedly failed adherence to Delaware Code regarding mandatory audits, reports and investigations not performed.

“Delaware’s Constitution imparts important responsibilities to the State Auditors Office, responsibilities designed to contribute to the state’s fiscal health,” Ms. McGuiness said. “By ensuring tax dollars are spent in the manner intended, it gives confidence to Delawareans, businesses and credit rating organizations that our state’s financial house is in order.”

A copy of the first 100 days report is online at auditor.delaware.gov.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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