State auditor's staffing needs to be restored

April 1, 2014

Delaware State Auditor, R. Thomas Wagner Jr. wrote a letter that appeared a few weeks ago in a few Delaware newspapers. In the letter, he explains his office has taken on more responsibility with a budget that has tripled to $7.5 billion since 1989 when he first took office. In addition, his staff has been reduced through his own efforts from 57 to 42, and then cut to 25 by the General Assembly in 2008. Wagner says that no other state office has taken such a drastic hit in staffing levels, and “It goes without saying there is plenty of risk and opportunity for fraud, waste, and abuse, and the need for non-partisan audits and investigations."

Many in the administration believe in the flawed philosophy of British economist John Maynard Keynes, who holds the view that economic output is strongly influenced by total spending in the economy, especially during recessions. This is the justification for the stimulus, quantitative easing, and federal and state overspending, over and above the overspending prior to 2008.

With such a view, it is possible that fraud, waste and abuse are perfectly acceptable because even if our taxes are stolen, it is hopefully being spent within our economy, and thus “stimulating” it. This could explain why cutting auditing and oversight throughout the country, is standard. This is the most foolish way to save money or cut spending imaginable. It’s the “honor” system where only honor among thieves exists.

It is likely that this practice does not occur on the collection side. You and I will pay our mandates, penalties, taxes, fees, and interest, or expect a visit from the nearest SWAT team.

Rampant fraud, waste and abuse on the spending side is the best way to fund campaigns, buy votes, reward friends, punish enemies, and enrich politicians.

State Auditor Wagner is right to point this out and to ask that his office be restored to full-functionality, fully staffed with credentialed auditors at competitive salaries. Every taxpayer should insist this is so, before even considering raising taxes, like the proposed 10 cent per gallon gas tax hike, the newly proposed “Clean Water for Delaware’s Future” initiative, or the Seaford School District’s school referendum (which recently failed).

These proposed taxes and initiatives always sound good, but there is little or no accounting on the spending side. We need to change that.

Then we need to keep a critical eye on State Auditor Wagner!

Armand Carreau

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