Opinion: Technology will save your tax dollars!

head shot kathy mcguinessCourtesy of Kathy McGuiness

Technology seems to age faster than we do. In this age of digital connectivity, we see new computers, devices and software invade the market virtually every week. Tech developers are constantly finding new ways to make our computers, our apps and our phones work more efficiently. States beyond our borders have tested and implemented a wide array of new technologies to create an efficient and streamlined auditing atmosphere. For example, in recent years, the current Ohio Auditor of State, has taken a number of steps to improve his office’s internal software and increase its public digital presence. These improvements, which we in Delaware, could adopt, to serve our needs, are a lens into the great potential Delaware has to revitalize the Office of the Auditor of Accounts.

Efficiency is one of the foremost concerns of any auditing agency. Efficiency saves taxpayers dollars. How do we cut costs at the central office as well as the agencies and organizations being audited? One of the best ways, is to ensure that all agencies throughout the state are using a uniform accounting system. Such a system, like the one currently in use in Ohio, allows state entities, like school districts, to accurately track their finances for internal purposes such as budgeting, and inventory management, as well as create uniform end-of-year statements and reports for state reporting. Having all of this information in a single, central program cuts out the potentially time consuming and financially costly process of building such statements and reports from the plethora of files and programs typically found on one’s computer. A uniform accounting system will also improve the thoroughness and accuracy of the user’s records, thereby improving the quality and efficiency of the audits performed by the Auditor of Accounts. At base, that is what any good auditor wants: quick, thorough, and accurate audits so we can best determine how to save the taxpayers of Delaware, money.

But it’s not enough to just have a uniform accounting system. We can further cut costs for our state agencies and organizations by introducing new, web-based services which allow users to share resources. For example, Ohio operates a website, which allows users to list projects and studies, being conducted by the local government, state agency, or organization. Other users may then offer to collaborate with the agency or organization and share the costs of the project or study. Both entities reap the benefits of the project, but each only pays half the cost. Ohioans have used this service for everything from land development feasibility studies, to shared emergency services operations. What’s more, this works in conjunction with another web-based service which allows users to share hardware and equipment, from farm machinery to emergency vehicles to road maintenance equipment (think salt trucks). Again, the ultimate result is a significant cost reduction for the participating user. Not only is that beneficial to the individual user, but it also ultimately benefits the taxpayers who may see reduced tax rates as a result.

Finally, in a bid to get taxpayers and government employees fully invested in the auditing process, why not develop a mobile application to allow average citizens to report suspicions of fraud, waste and abuse in their interactions with the state. The logic behind developing such an app is clear: people are increasingly turning away from making telephone calls. In an age of texting and emailing, having to call a hotline to report fraud, waste, and abuse can seem like an archaic, time consuming process. Not only does a mobile app provide convenience, it also provides immediacy. No longer are we concerned that the person suspecting such abuse will simply forget to report it; now they can do so in the parking lot, or even in the office where they experience the problem. Fundamentally, this creates a repository of complaints for the Auditor to investigate; it also allows the Auditor to pinpoint offices and agencies that receive high complaint volumes, which would indicate a special cause for concern. This strikes at the heart of the Auditor’s goals: to combat waste, fraud, and abuse of government funds.

In short, the digital age has forced us all to modernize. Whether it’s by purchasing a new phone or computer, or simply ensuring that we have the latest updates on our devices. Up-to-date tech ensures that our digital devices are safe, accurate, and efficient. Just as the average person transitions in the age of computers, so should the Auditor of Accounts.

As your Auditor, your Watchdog, I shall strive to provide and suggest, quick, accurate, and cost-effective services for the state, thereby protecting the state’s taxpayers, in both peace of mind and your wallets!

Kathy McGuiness, an Independent Watchdog has been holding those accountable for 30 years, 17 as an elected official. A native Delawarean from Sussex County, McGuiness is a candidate for State Auditor. She can be reached at km@votemcguiness.com.

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