Commentary: Delaware Tech’s issues need a full accounting

Gov. Carney now has the latest attempt to bail out the administration of Del Tech from its facilities management debacle.

To remind everyone they appear to have “deferred maintenance” for up to 20 years in their own words. What they refer to as “deferred maintenance “is gross neglect in the real world.

Del Tech’s administration claims that the cost of their negligence is said to be somewhere between 89 and 100 million dollars or over $100 per person in the state.

This bill fails utterly to address the underlying issue of who did this, for how long and how and why did they do it? Have there been requests for funding that were not funded? What if anything did the facilities staff at Del Tech report to upper management and when? What steps did Del Tech administration take upon being informed? The question of why would we the taxpayers grant the administration of Del Tech control in any way shape or form any control or management of the monies needed to correct their mess is completely ignored.

The best way to proceed to get out of Del Tech’s administrative debacle is twofold.

A. Strip Del Tech of all control of the monies for facilities issues. Their track record on capital project issues is appalling. They cannot be trusted since they clearly lack the competence or the integrity to handle such projects.

Place the funds in the direct control of the Department of Finance/Division of Facilities Management. Charge Del Tech’s budget for all interest as is done to all other agencies and is called “debt service” in state budget language.

B. A full-fledged investigation. A complete forensic audit of all accounting and a complete investigation and documentation of all Del Tech board actions and discussions, internal documentation and budget requests for capital projects for the last twenty years.

This should include a review of all documentation of issues reported to the Del Tech administration by staff or others. The Attorney General’s Office and the State Auditor’s Office should lead the actual investigation and report directly to the governor and the legislature.

Full public disclosure should follow the submission of the report. There is nothing that should be held confidential because there is simply no reason to do so since this does not involve national security. Public hearings may be in order to restore some public confidence in Del Tech management.

To implement “A: The following should start immediately. Facilities Management should take all estimates, studies, reviews and documentation from Del Tech concerning capital needs.

The basic goal is to determine to what extent that they can what are the real needs and potential costs to restore existing facilities to existing functions? They should do a report broken down by campus and then each structure or infrastructure issue on that campus to the degree that they can with the documentation.

They should cite areas of no or very little documentation. Based on professional facilities standards, are there any issues that appear to be very critical. For example the leaks over the IT equipment? They should be defined and funded in the FY 2020 budget if possible. Be rigorous in the definition of “Critical” at this time and Del Tech should have no role or input in this process.

Add to the FY 2020 Capital Budget monies to fund via the Division of Facilities Management a Del Tech-wide facilities/infrastructure professional review and report with estimates of costs and a suggested prioritizing of projects for the next five years broken down by campus and facility on that campus.

All of this should be based on restoring existing assets to existing uses and be based on professional facilities standards. Del Tech should have no role, input or involvement in any way.

To implement “B”: There should be complete research and listing of all properties owned by Del Tech and all leases for facilities not owned but used by Del Tech. I remember it being reported that Del Tech had a beach house for the use of the president of Del Tech. True? Who else could use it? What capital work was done on any structures or infrastructures and when and at what cost? Why would they even have such a property?

If there are off-campus Del Tech-owned properties, have them professionally appraised to determine market value. Is there the potential for some sort of recouping of costs of the system wide failure of Del Tech administration over the last twenty years? Do they lease any properties to others and if so who and what are the internal conflicts with Del Tech administration? What are the rents charged and are they market rates or is there some sort of “sweetheart” deal?

Senate Substitute 2 for Senate Bill 50, by its very title, indicates a “business as usual” thought process by the legislature. It can easily be termed a rush to cover up what literally has the potential to be the greatest scandal in the history of the state. This is not a minor matter and it took the administration of Del Tech 20 years to create this mess so there is no need to rush to address it.

By no means should public tax monies be appropriated to the control of Del Tech administration for capital projects issues. They clearly cannot be trusted whether by issues of competence or integrity.

Gov. Carney, do not sign Senate Substitute 2 for Senate Bill 50. Delaware legislators, be patient and insist on implementing the two-step approach outlined and then address funding when and as needed.

Jim Stewart, of Dover, retired from the state of Delaware where he managed property for 26 years.

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