State auditor Kathy McGuiness is taking steps to make it easier to be a citizen watchdog in Delaware.
With an influx of roughly $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act funds to the First State, McGuiness will have her office create a site of "historic transparency," which will display to the public how every dollar is spent once received.
"It's actually very simple. And it's hopefully going to simplify people's lives in regards to the estimated billion dollars that are coming our way to Delaware," McGuiness said on WDEL's The Rick Jensen Show. "This is a simple, uniform project that will track the ARP funds once they're spent. This is not about the influx of our funds, because there seems to be some confusion in what our role is; we are seeking to help county and local government officials and school districts transparently show taxpayers how they spend the money."
Which is all many people want, she said; a way to hold officials accountable and make sure their communities are receiving the assistance they require, especially as the country pulls itself out of a global pandemic.
"People want to know how their money is being spent, right," she said. "When we had round one with the CARES Act, the guidance on the White House said their mission was expediency; they wanted it out. 'Issue these awards and fund these programs, it's crucial.' And they wanted them to report information on accountability and transparency, but there was such an urgency. Now we--especially our office--is seeing beaucoup fraud. So this is an opportunity to take a step back, maybe understand a little bit more, and they have three years to spend it."
The website will feature a "very simple" secure online portal powered by OpenGov where government officials will be required to enter the details of their ARP spending each week. That data will be broken out into graphics for the public for review and comparison.
"What's interesting about this project that we're doing is very simple, very easy, very proactive, very transparent," she said. "If you're a municipality or a city or town--they're going to look alike--it takes about two or three minutes to do once a week...what's very interesting with the school districts, their execution of this initiative is even easier, because we can pull the the financial data directly from the state's accounting system. So they don't even have to go and enter anything, and we'll be able to tell a story of districts, and then districts can look at other people, what they're doing. 'What does this district spend on?' But also our portal will take that data and have graphics and make everyone a citizen watchdog?"
When municipalities begin receiving the ARP funds in mid- to late-June, those interested will be able to go to auditor.delaware.gov to track the way funds are spent.