Opinion: Next State Auditor needs a real vision for the office

Kathleen Davies Courtesy of Kathleen Davies

Delawareans are about to elect their first new State Auditor in 29 years. Currently, the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts faces a number of challenges, but they are not insurmountable. With experienced leadership in the profession of state government auditing and investigating, I believe that the office can fully serve all Delawareans.

The office is significantly understaffed when unstaffed positions are already part of the state budget. Clearly, no office can operate at full capacity with ongoing staffing shortages — especially an office with as crucial a mission as safeguarding taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. It must be fully staffed with qualified individuals committed to working as audit and investigative career professionals.

The office must consistently follow professional audit and investigation standards. All work performed in the office, and all findings coming out of the office, should be fact-based and independent, and unaffected by preconceived biases, political or personal considerations or special interests.

Annual financial audits and audit mandates required by legislation must be performed in a timely manner and according to the appropriate professional standards. Delawareans look to the State Auditor to provide regular program reviews and process evaluations to help ensure good government and transparency. They also expect and deserve a State Auditor who can provide investigations and public reporting when tax dollars are spent illegally, unethically or frivolously.

Audits performed by the office in recent years have not received the appropriate attention and response from the rest of state government, including audits related to important areas like public education and renewable energy. There are far too many repeat findings and recommendations.

If audits and investigations do not produce concrete results, the tax dollars spent performing them are wasted, and that is unacceptable for an office seeking to identify, eliminate and prevent waste.

In addition to follow-up, easily accessible and digestible public status reports are vital. No government office can do it all, so community members can and should play a key role in ensuring that government officials act on findings. To do that, the public must be kept informed.

I have always advocated for good government, and I always will. As your next State Auditor, I will implement consistent, transparent follow-up reviews and public status reports regarding unresolved findings and recommendations.

Also, we must ensure that state employees are encouraged to report tips about fraud, waste and abuse. They should not be discouraged from doing so in outright or subtle ways. State employees and the office can work together to both identify fraud, waste and abuse, and to implement processes ensuring the best use of state revenue.

Further, employees in the office itself should not fear repercussions for fulfilling their duties to the utmost, following professional audit standards to perform investigations and issue independent, fair, fact-based reports.

Finally, it is not enough simply to identify fraud, waste and abuse once it has occurred. We must work to prevent it. The State Auditor must provide quality training to entities receiving and spending state funds. The old adage about an ounce of prevention is very much applicable regarding waste, fraud, and abuse in government and other public institutions.

I have 25 years in the specific field of state government auditing, including fifteen years at the senior staff and director levels. I served six years as second-in-command in the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts. Over the years, I have worked to maintain a number of professional credentials, including: Certified Public Accountant (CPA-PA), Certified Government Audit Professional (CGAP), Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).

I have served on numerous national audit committees and workgroups, and I have trained audit staff around the country. My record is one of standing up to fraud, waste, abuse, corruption and fiscal mismanagement, even when it has been difficult on me personally and professionally.

I firmly believe that with the proper leadership — leadership with experience, independence, and integrity — the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts can be made to serve Delawareans to the utmost.

If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be running for State Auditor.

I humbly ask for your support and your vote in the Thursday, September 6th Delaware Democratic primary election.

Kathleen Davies is a Democrat running for Delaware State Auditor. She can be reached at kdavieselect@outlook.com, or through her campaign website at https://kdaviesforstateauditor.com.

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