Can you pinpoint places where Pennsylvania’s tax money gets squandered because of either sloppy practices or outright thievery?
If so, the state’s auditor general wants to hear from you. Tipsters – such as state government workers, ex-employees of the commonwealth, school district staffers and others in the know, including users of government-backed services such as nursing home care – are encouraged to contact the department via its online form, accessible at www.paauditor.gov, or its telephone hotline at 1-800-922-8477.
The department annually peers into about one-third of the state’s school districts, examining both their financial books and performance, as well as many municipal pension funds, corporate tax returns and state-funded operations. If a penny saved is a penny earned, as has been professed, Pennsylvania apparently could reap millions with some belt-tightening.
In its most recent look at certain Pennsylvania schools, the department identified about $19 million in what auditors deemed wasteful spending, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently told the Times Leader Opinion Board. He attributed much of that fiscal folly to transportation expenses. Defying all good sense, many districts don’t routinely solicit bids for bus service contracts, he said. Also, the auditors frequently find what DePasquale, a former state representative from York County, characterized as administrators’ “inappropriate” severance packages.
Regrettably, members of DePasquale’s team sometimes don’t hear from whistle-blowers and watchdogs until just after an audit has ended and a report has been issued. The department’s workers potentially could uncover more trouble, and call for corrections, if they heard from tipsters earlier in the process.
To keep tabs on where the state’s money trackers will be probing next, you can subscribe to receive the department’s news releases. In July, for instance, it announced a pending review of “how the Department of Health currently handles nursing home complaints.”
You also can get email updates on newly finalized audits, selecting to get emails about those pertaining to a particular county or to categories such as “county offices and district courts,” the “liquid fuels tax fund,” universities and veterans.
Among the department’s current or upcoming school audits in Luzerne County: Dallas School District (ongoing), Hazleton (due to start by year’s end) and Wilkes-Barre Area (due to begin in late 2016). Also on the department’s radar: the state Turnpike Commission and the state Gaming Control Board. The latter audit will, in part, gauge the casinos’ job-creation numbers as well as the industry’s impact on property tax relief.
If you have knowledge of improper or illegal behavior involving taxpayers’ bucks, tell it to the auditors.