McGuiness recaps a productive 2021
As 2021 comes to a close, my office is celebrating progress and achievement. Over a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to adapt to a new normal, I am proud to highlight some of the initiatives my office produced. Each and every engagement continued my office’s mission to ensure you get a fair deal.
In March 2021, the federal government passed the American Rescue Plan Act, and Delaware received an unprecedented $1.25 billion in COVID relief money. Unlike the CARES Act, most of these funds were distributed directly to counties, cities, towns and school districts. In an effort to provide transparency and encourage accountability for the $1.25 billion in spending, I launched Project: Gray Fox. Gray Fox is a simple, uniform system for tracking American Rescue Plan Act funds and can be viewed by visiting auditor.delaware.gov. The online transparency portal shows Delawareans not only how much money was given to each entity, but how the money is being spent in such detail that it can be used for U.S. Treasury reporting requirements for all but six municipalities. Although entities have up to three years to spend ARPA funds, Delawareans deserve a seat at the table to see how this money is spent in their communities.
In the first six months of 2021, I identified $111.6 million in efficiency savings, government overspending and potential tax revenue.
Lack of transparency and accountability in drug pricing that could be costing taxpayers millions played a role in the growing conversation in Delaware about the predatory practices of pharmacy benefit managers and their crippling effect on Delaware’s independent pharmacies and small businesses. The report, which highlighted the importance of integrating the proficiency of subject matter experts when the state is negotiating contracts, requested the former PBM for Delaware state employees and retirees pay back $24.5 million. As a pharmacist and statewide elected official, I continue to lend support to push for federal legislation concerning pharmacy benefits managers.
Millions in pharmaceutical savings are possible within Delaware’s correctional facilities without compromising services. I examined the model now used by the Department of Correction to purchase prescription drugs for inmates in Delaware. My office estimated that Delaware taxpayers could have saved as much as $44.1 million over seven years for pharmacy services. This would have reduced their annual budget for pharmacy services by nearly half. Millions in revenue anticipated from legalizing marijuana in Delaware highlighted the fiscal benefit of taxing and regulating marijuana for adult use. If Delaware adopts a similar regulatory framework as other states that have legalized, we could see upwards of $43 million in tax revenue for the state, not including the additional economic benefits and cost savings from ending prohibition.
These three reports alone identified more than 41 times my office’s general fund budget of $2.7 million.
My office continues to collaborate with multiple states and agencies while working diligently to ensure we align with best practices set forth nationwide. Recently, Oversight.gov, a website that contains publicly accessible reports, investigations and recommendations from state and local governments across the country, ranked your Auditor’s Office No. 2 nationwide for reporting totals. Over the course of the past year, Delaware’s Auditor’s Office led the nation in transparency efforts by submitting more reports to Oversight.gov than the next four states and agencies combined.
In its year-end report, the Government Efficiency and Accountability Review Board highlighted the Auditor’s Office role in ensuring transparency and good governance for all Delawareans. The report stated, “A fully staffed and fully funded [Office of Auditor of Accounts] would serve all state agencies by allowing its auditors to identify cost savings for them through our engagements.”
My new initiative, the Follow Up Program, aims to provide acknowledgement for agencies that adhere to and apply recommendations to enhance performance. By utilizing findings as an opportunity to improve, my office will be able to track the growth in transparency and accountability across the state. Several agencies are currently participating in this program, and their successes will be announced in early 2022.
2021 has been the Year of Collaboration for my office. From introducing the historic Project: Gray Fox transparency portal, to participating in national initiatives, the Auditor’s Office has had one of the most noteworthy years in recent memory.
I am grateful for the hard work and dedication of my staff and look forward to an equally, if not more, momentous 2022.