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Information on Finances in Government

From the Minutes of the April '05 Civic League Meeting

Remarks by Tom Wagner, Auditor for the State of Delaware:

Wagner’s staff just caught a case of fraud by a member of one tax ditch commission. These are quasi-governmental organizations that work on drainage issues and seldom get much attention. Most of what he does anymore is investigations. They take at least 50% of his time. White collar crime investigations require a long time to obtain evidence. Not all the cases wind up prosecuted. Some of it is just stupid. We have $4 billion in State revenues, so there is a lot to check. Part of the Auditor’s job is to make people worry about fraud so they will not break the law, but they can never catch it all.

Wagner has projects or proposals he wants to advance to improve financial operations. Right now he wants to make a change in the organization of school districts. Besides the 19 regular districts in the State, there are three vo-tech school districts In New Castle County and one each in Kent and Sussex. A group wants to roll those vo-tech districts into one and he favors the economies of scale that would provide.

He wants one system for all government bookkeeping. Taxpayers have to pay for differences because it takes time for people to learn the different systems when auditing.

Volunteer fire companies are an example of the auditing his office does of agencies that are not government affiliates. Lots of the fraud his office uncovers is in non-profits that get State funds. He is narrowing down to three to four, things that non-profits can do with their operation that will enable them to catch mistakes or fraud. He will issue an advisory on this subject soon. The Children’s Trust Fund was an example of an organization that involves has many prominent, well-meaning people, but they did not realize how much fiduciary responsibility they had and they ran into problems. Auditing as much as possible is, therefore, important. No group is above making mistakes.

Fire companies need a responsible person and independent review. They require designators. They save the State over 70 million dollars each year, so we should find a way to help them operate well.. Most rely on shift workers and unemployed volunteers or students to cover the daytime. Some hire day assistance.

Wagner will look over non-profits only if they get State funds.. He will meet with civic associations to talk about their problems too. You can find contact information for him on the website for the State of Delaware.

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Posted: FLR -