Audit report finds excesses in Pa. Legislature’s spending

    A report on the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s internal finances shows the body spent nearly $307 million last year and has continued a number of practices that auditors discourage.

    Legislative staff say 36 checkbooks are scattered throughout General Assembly offices — auditors found they were riddled with errors, and at least one of them was used to pay an employee’s parking ticket.

    The salaries of some House employees exceeds the maximum pay range, without any formal document overriding it.

    And throughout the Legislature, employees aren’t required to itemize expenses paid for with a credit card when they are reimbursed.

    Last year, auditors flagged employees for buying alcohol and being reimbursed with tax dollars.

    No such purchases were found in this year’s report, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    The head of the audit commission, Pa. Rep. Gordon Denlinger, R-Lancaster, says it’s against policy to be reimbursed for alcohol.

    “But it would be correct to say that if we do not have detailed credit card slips, we do not know the answer to that question,” he said. “That highlights the need to consider that change by the leadership of the four caucuses.”

    Legislators should abide by the same standards that apply to most other Pennsylvanians, says Eric Epstein of the government reform group Rock the Capital.

    “And I know in the world I live in if I don’t give an itemized document accounting for how I’ve spent company money, I’m called in to question. I’m audited,” he said. “I don’t think that these guys have ever really earned the right to get the benefit of the doubt.”

    The report also shows the General Assembly maintained a surplus of roughly $140 million, down from the previous fiscal year surplus of about $183 million.

    State lawmakers say they keep it in the event that a budget impasse keeps them in Harrisburg longer than anticipated — but government reform activists say it’s unseemly for lawmakers to hang onto taxpayer money not designated for any specific purpose.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.