With just two weeks to go before the general election, candidates are making their final pitches to voters.
In the race for state Auditor Tom Wagner is seeking a seventh term in office, but faces tough competition from democratic challenger Brenda Mayrack.
Wagner has held onto the office for 26 years and brings a wealth of knowledge to the position.
“Prior to becoming state auditor, I was a bank examiner which did regulatory audits of financial institutions, so interesting enough, I was one of the first auditor to come into the office with actual auditing experience. I’m a certified fraud examiner, I have several other certifications,” Wagner said.
During his time in the auditor’s office, Wagner has adjusted to changes and new regulations and has learned to do more with less.
“The state budget has gone up by over $3 billion dollars since I’ve been auditor, yet at the same time, my staff has been cut in half by two thirds,” Wagner explained. “But still with that, we’ve managed to put together a staff filled with CPAs, and certified fraud examiners, where we’d had none before. Through hard work, technology and innovation, and very good dedicated staff that we’ve managed through all the hard times, all the restrictions have been put on us, we put together an auditor’s office that I think any state would be proud to call their own.”
Waste, abuse and fraud
Wagner noted that earlier this year, his office released a report on the waste, fraud, waste and abuse among entitlement programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
“The state does what we call pay and catch, where you come in and fill out the forms, and the state takes it at merit what you’re saying is your income levels. If they find out that those numbers are fraudulent, they go after you, after they’ve given you the money,” Wagner said. “That is a process that just has all kinds of potential for fraud.”
Wagner said the programs should be better coordinated, and if re-elected he’ll work to help improve the way the state handles those benefits.
“If you qualify for one source of assistance from the state, you probably qualify for multiple programs. The systems don’t talk to each other, and I think it makes every bit of sense to say ‘here’s you’re one stop shop.’ It’s better for the consumers, it’s better for the people who need those services, and in the long run, the state can better manage that because if we’re looking at the eligibility we can have a better control of fraud.”
Brenda Mayrack, the democrat
Mayrack, a small business owner and attorney whose practice focuses on auditing for Fortune 500 companies, criticized Wagner for taking six years to audit the state’s public assistance programs.
‘Someone whose been in office as long as he has, should know, that when we go through a recession, of the magnitude of 2008, that you’re going to see an increase in the use of those benefits,” Mayrack said. “But yet, it took until 2014, six years later, to get an audit done of those programs. So this is an example of not being ahead of the curve. If you’re having one of the worst recessions and you’re going to see an increase, in these benefits, why not start auditing it earlier? Don’t wait six years, until an election year to release what is clearly a partisan and politically motivated report.”
Mayrack said it’s time to implement new plans to transform the office.
“My plan looks at doing more performance auditing,” Mayrack said. “There’s different kinds of audits you can do. You can make sure the numbers add up, and they’re accurate. Performance auditing is a different kind of auditing that goes a step further and it makes sure that money is being spent properly and effectively, it looks for cost savings. The last four years, only four performance audits have been completed by the current state auditor. We should be doing dozens of these. That should be the main focus of the office.”
App for whistle blowers
Mayrack is also in the process of developing an App that she says is designed to help the legislative process and will provide a way for “whistle blowers” come forward if they see a problem.
“What we need is a secure platform for people to feel comfortable sending information in right away. So there’s a lot of opportunities here that are being missed, I’m offering new ideas, a new plan for this office to make it do more,” she said.
In September primary, Mayrack won the democratic nomination over Ken Matlusky with 55 percent of the votes. Wagner ran unopposed.
Voters will turn out again on Nov. 4.