Commentary: Transformative year for the State Auditor’s Office

The Delaware Constitution and Delaware Code give the State Auditor’s Office important roles and responsibilities contributing to the state’s fiscal health. It therefore must perform at peak capacity and cannot be allowed to atrophy.

Regrettably, a combination of organizational, resource, and staffing deficiencies meant that the agency’s performance was less than optimal when I took over. That’s why on Day One I immediately went to work to change it. Since taking office in 2019, my goal was to transform this agency to its Constitutional functional intention, as a steward of taxpayer dollars.

Kathy McGuiness

Delawareans deserve a state auditor and agency that’s actively watching over the people’s money and ensuring those dollars are well-spent and free from fraud, waste, and abuse. This oversight not only provides citizens, businesses, and national credit rating organizations confidence that our state’s financial house is in order, but also provides an environment where fiduciary ethics are upheld.

While the oversight role drives much of our work, the Auditor’s Office is so much more. It’s also a resource to help state government and other publicly funded entities improve service for all Delawareans.

To that end, I’m pleased to share a number of my agency’s key accomplishments for 2019:

• Optimized staffing and improved organizational efficiency in order to clear audit backlogs, enhance responsiveness, and improve the agency’s overall functionality;

• Acted on more than two-thirds of the recommendations from the first ever Audit of the Auditor’s Office;

• Created the first comprehensive risk assessment tool to use to develop an annual audit plan that targets critical areas of state spending;

• Invested in data analytic software that allows auditors to automate time-intensive and repetitive processes, analyze larger sets of data, and create code to continuously identify anomalies, thereby eliminating manual testing and sampling;

• Launched a mobile app tool for the public to report suspected fraud to the Auditor’s Office;

• Redesigned the agency’s website to be more user friendly;

• Simplified the format for audit reports making them easier to read; and

• Revamped the agency’s public image and profile through public meetings and social media.

What this all means is that the agency is now better equipped to perform and manage the 77 audits mandated in the Delaware Code, to respond to tips submitted through the Fraud Hotline, and to tackle my audit initiatives. While I’m proud of what we accomplished this year, this is only the beginning.

Looking ahead to 2020, I’ll fight for the necessary staff and appropriations this agency should have received had the Auditor’s Office’s budget and personnel kept pace with the growth of state government during the past decade.

You’ll also see the Auditor’s Office pivot to a more proactive approach, focusing its efforts on high-risk areas, and concentrating on audit engagements that evaluate state agencies and programmatic efficiency, effectiveness, and impact.

This all will help further transform the Auditor’s Office as a center of excellence and provide greater value to the First State by helping it perform better and more efficiently.

In 2020, we will build on our accomplishments and continue to be accountable to ourselves and to the taxpayers. The old ways of the past are over. Under my leadership, this agency no longer will get by on Band-aids, quick fixes or doing the minimum required, because Delawareans deserve the best from those who elected them to serve. And that’s what I intend to provide you.

I’ll continue publicly sharing the progress we’re making to rebuild this agency and to make it relevant again over the coming year.

Welcome to your new and improved State Auditor’s Office, accountable to all Delaware taxpayers.

Kathy McGuiness is auditor of the state of Delaware.