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Inspector General Will Bring Transparency to Delaware Government

By: Jane Brady, Chair, A Better Delaware

The operation of our state government can be complex, confusing, even overwhelming, if you are not directly involved in the day-to-day development and implementation of the expenditures. But there are some basic standards that government should meet in making sure the public is informed about the priorities of their leaders and the way the public’s funds are being spent.  Transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of a government of good integrity.

That is lacking in Delaware today.  Even with regard to how much money the state will spend this year, we are not getting the full story.  The Governor proposed a budget of about $8 million, and the Joint Finance Committee recently released an operating budget of $6.1 million. There are some capital expenditures and financial support for non-profits that will be added. But that is not the entire story.

You may have heard about the more than $4 billion dollars Delaware spent in surplus funds in the past three years, provided by the federal government, largely due to Covid funds.  But Covid did not begin the provision of federal supplements, and they will not end when the Covid funds run out (we are spending the last of them now). According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, Delaware actually spent between $7 and $10 billion more than our “budget” each year since 2019.

And recently we learned that we have not accounted for, or spent, all those funds wisely or appropriately.  Were you aware that nearly $200,000 was embezzled from our state unemployment insurance funds? Neither were the State Auditor or law enforcement.  For over a year, no information was provided by the agency about the loss.  The facts only surfaced when an auditing firm advised they could not perform an audit because the accounting of the funds was in such disarray

In its annual report, Truth In Accounting, which evaluates the 50 states’ financial transparency and scores each state, awarded Delaware 74 out of 100 points, and ranked our state 26th. The Report found that a factor in that ranking was failure to accurately state our assets and liabilities.

If we count on the government “players” to let us know what is going on, we will not learn the facts. We need to have an independent, non -partisan Office of Inspector General (OIG).  According to a report by WHYY, such a concept has been the subject of discussion since 2007.  Amid great fanfare, a bill was introduced to establish such an office. The bill stated that the “sole mission [will be] to investigate and prevent fraud, waste, mismanagement, corruption, and other abuse of governmental resources. The OIG will “protect the health and safety of Delaware residents, assist in the recovery of misspent or inappropriately paid funds, and strengthen government integrity and the public trust in government operations.” That bill has stalled.

You may think that the State Auditor would take care of finding the mismanagement abuse or fraud in the state agencies. After all, the mission of that Office is to provide evaluation of the state’s fiscal accountability and public program performance. But historically, there has been consistent reluctance to share information with our State Auditor when discrepancies are discovered Given that the agencies have not shared information as appropriate with the Auditor, an independent non-partisan position of Inspector General is needed in Delaware, which will have the ability to investigate and issue subpoenas for information relevant to their duties. We urge you to contact your legislator and tell them you want them to vote for SS1 for SB21, the Office of Inspector General.

Jane Brady serves as Chair of A Better Delaware. She previously served as Attorney General of Delaware and as a Judge of the Delaware Superior Court.