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Politics & Government

State Auditor faces criticism over lackluster performance

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Delaware Public Media

Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness was grilled by state lawmakers in a budget hearing Tuesday.

McGuiness has been under fire for a year, most prominently facing criminal charges over alleged corruption, theft and misconduct while in office. McGuiness is set to stand trial in May, but has refused to step down from her position.

At her office’s budget hearing, members of the Joint Finance Committee criticized the auditor for failing to raise adequate funds through audits the office performs.

State Rep. Kim Williams notes it only collected $50,000 last year, but the state has approved up to $1.3 million in revenue.

“If you’re gonna be successful and be able to fund the positions you need to be successful, you need to start auditing,” Williams says. “And you need to start raising the funds through auditing — and that means the school districts, that means the construction audits, that means through the clearing house that Senator Paradee was talking about; there’s fees in there that you can collect.”

McGuiness says her office is working with state budget officials to bring those numbers much higher.

“We are working with the OMB, we are trying to contract things out; and we do recognize that that is going to be able to enhance our budget, at least at that personnel level too in special funds,” she says. “And it’s my understanding we’re on target to raise $400,000 dollars this year.”

McGuiness says the office is increasing the number of projects and audits it contracts out; allowing them to charge more administrative fees to the agencies they audit.

She adds the office continues to struggle with fee collection. The rates are determined by the Office of Management and Budget, and change every year. McGuiness says a more stable rate year-to-year would make it easier to charge and collect fees from state agencies.

The governor’s recommended budget only calls for about a 5 percent increase to the auditor’s budget, but McGuiness wants more, asking lawmakers to push it around $4.5 million total.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.