Issues

Audit the Auditor’s Office

As Auditor, Anthony’s top priority would be to audit the Office of the State Auditor. The Auditor’s Office has a history of not meeting the legal responsibility of auditing the Commonwealth’s 209 agencies at least once every three years. Over the past 12 years, the number of annual audits performed by the Auditor’s Office has steadily declined. As a result, Massachusetts residents have seen government failures that could have been prevented

For the first time, the Auditor’s Office will be audited by a truly independent third-party auditing firm to assess the office’s shortcomings and recommend additional changes. Previously, the office has been audited by the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers, which is incentivized to offer glowing reports on its own members.

In addition, Anthony will reform the office’s entire approach to auditing, which is broken:

  1. Data used in audits are outdated by years by the time they are released in a report.
  2. Staffers are frequently rotated between multiples audits, creating misunderstandings of complex problems in the inner workings of a state entity or agency.
  3. The Auditor’s reports consistently do not mention the steps state agencies and entities have taken to rectify problems before, during, and after deficiencies are identified.
  4. There is a history in the Auditor’s Office of mixing politics with official business and issuing “sensationalized press releases” of politically motivated audits with “grossly mischaracterizing” findings.

Finally, the Auditor’s Office has been allowed for too long to be crippled by extreme underfunding.

  • A lopsided Legislature, dominated by the party that also controls the Auditor’s Office, has level-funded the $20 million annual auditing budget despite a failure of the office to meet statutory obligations.
  • By comparison, budgets for the other constitutional offices – Secretary of State ($54MM), Attorney General ($57MM), and Treasurer ($1.2B) – are multiples higher.
  • Anthony endorsed legislation to more than double the State Auditor’s baseline budget to $42 million, which is a similar amount to what other states with similarly-sized budgets spend to audit their spending. 

Anthony Amore will address these problems by speaking truth to power as an independent auditor accountable to the voters, not the Beacon Hill establishment. He will

  1. Take a proactive posture to auditing, ensuring problems are discovered quickly.
  2. Reform the office’s broken processes for performing government audits.
  3. Act as a good government advocate who will pressure the Legislature and Governor to responsibly fund the Auditor’s Office so it may finally meet its legal requirement.

Advocate for Total Transparency

As an independent auditor, Anthony will strongly advocate for increased transparency across state government while leading by example.

Under Anthony’s leadership, the Auditor’s Office will adopt a “presumption of openness” policy similar to the federal policy enacted by U.S. Department of Justice.

One of the office’s first action items will be to eliminate its cumbersome and difficult-to-navigate process of posting audit findings on Mass.gov. A new, simplified website will allow residents to search by keywords or the name of a state agency and quickly uncover the findings and recommendations of previous audits. The Auditor’s Office will work closely with the Commonwealth’s Inspector General to model the new website on the IG’s groundbreaking work done with the CHTRU Payroll website, which allows residents to quickly uncover the salaries and spending habits of public employees and state agencies.

Anthony will use the Office of the State Auditor to forcefully advocate that the Legislature and Governor’s Office conform with the habits of 49 other state governments and allow some or all of their records to be made available to the public. As Auditor, Anthony Amore will incorporate abuse of the public records laws into audits of the Governor’s Office, Legislature, or any state agency that is not acting in good faith. 

Finally, Anthony fully supports changing state law to allow the State Auditor to conduct audits of the Legislature. If the Legislature fails to pass these reforms, then Anthony has promised to support and campaign for a ballot question to make the Legislature subject to the public records laws, open meeting laws, and audits by the State Auditor.

Tackle Issues Important to Families

Cost of College: Are Families Getting What They Pay For?

As the father of two daughters – with one at UMass – Anthony believes it is time to stop talking about the cost of college and do something about it. As an independent auditor, Anthony will take a hard look at spending and rooting out waste.  The answer is not always to increase state funding because throwing more money at wasteful spending only buys you more waste.

An audit of state higher education should examine the true cost of college, whether on-campus or on-line, and expose those factors that drive up tuition and fees.  The audit should answer the question: Are students and families are really getting what they are paying for?

Walking across the Amherst campus, Anthony was amazed at all the construction and then saw dollar signs.  It’s the parents and students who are paying for it through tuition and state taxes. Is anyone checking to be sure projects are managed properly? Why are there great disparities in similar projects from campus to campus?

  • Why did the new parking garage at UMass Boston cost $50,000 per parking space when the Bridgewater State garage cost $20,000 per space?
  • Why did the UMass Boston dorms cost $527 per square foot when 4 miles away, at MassArt, the cost was $345 per square foot?

Even before the pandemic began, student enrollment was in decline at public colleges and universities. UMass was unprepared for this event which has only been exacerbated since the pandemic. Between 2019 and 2021, state universities have seen a net decline of 11 percent in student enrollment. If our universities aren’t collecting the tuition to pay for their spending habits, then Anthony believes costs should be better controlled.

The Auditor’s Office can, and should, be playing a larger role revealing the cause of the exploding growth in costs at our state colleges and universities. Under Anthony, the Auditor’s Office will root out the wasteful spending that has led to ballooning tuition payments and target a reduced growth in higher education that remains in line with the growth of our state budget.

Audit the Unaudited

By her own estimate, the current State Auditor has admitted that up to 30 percent of all state agencies have not seen completed audits within a three-year timeline as required by law. Without timely audits, we do not know if the Commonwealth is providing robust and accountable services for its people. Among the examples:

Cannabis Control Commission

A recent hack of personal data stored by a state vendor revealed the Cannabis Control Commission has never been audited.  The commission that is supposed to ensure the fair and complete oversight of legal retail and medical marijuana sales has no oversight.

This raises important questions:

  • Is the personal, medical and product purchase information of the state’s 69,000 registered marijuana patients being adequately protected from hacking?
  • Are state agencies and vendors who collect personal information on state employees, licensed cannabis workers, and others doing enough to prevent unauthorized access to the data?
  • Is the Cannabis Control Commission fulfilling its obligations to the taxpayers by providing proper oversight to the cannabis industry, including regular and rigorous inspections of facilities and operations to prevent illegal activity and diversion of product?
Recently the Legislature granted the Cannabis Control Commission even more oversight of this industry, and we need to understand how and why the CCC has failed to deliver an equitable marijuana industry and has jeopardized the personal information of thousands all because of lax oversight. This is why Massachusetts needs an independent auditor who will stand up to Beacon Hill insiders and criticize sacred cows like the Cannabis Control Commission, which has inexplicably never been audited. 
 
Unemployment Insurance 
 
Another area of state government going unaudited is the unemployment insurance system, which paid out $33 billion over two years to residents impacted by the pandemic. Of this amount, $4 billion was flagged for potential errors and the state is looking to recover or forgive $2.3 billion in overpayments made incorrectly. The next State Auditor must take a holistic look at our public benefits, which are among the most generous in the nation, and compare them against our insurance trust fund solvency which has struggled to maintain adequate financing and places an exceptional burden on employers. Anthony has endorsed proposed spending by Governor Baker to replenish the fund with $300 million in one-time funds to make sure that businesses aren’t on the hook.
 
Nursing Homes
 
A third instance of unmet oversight is in the Commonwealth’s nursing home industry. While the State Auditor has previously flagged issues with MassHealth payments made to nursing home administrators, never before has the Auditor looked comprehensively at the systematic ways in which out-of-state operators may be using public dollars in pass-through schemes to inflate the salaries and revenue of CEOs and investor groups at the expense of residents and staffers. 
 
For Anthony, this issue is personal. His paternal grandmother died in an overcrowded nursing home, and if elected he will fight for seniors who deserve dignity in retirement. 

Preventing Predictable Problems

As Auditor, Anthony will establish a Waste Prevention Unit within the Auditor’s Office to examine legislative and regulatory proposals in order to identify and bring attention to potential problem areas. The Waste Prevention Unit would play a vital role in applying to state government the wise proverb: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Expanded Driver’s Licenses

New state law will grant Massachusetts driver’s licenses to immigrants who live in the state without proper permission from U.S. Immigration authorities and contrary to federal law. Regardless of your stance on this issue, one thing is clear: the beleaguered Registry of Motor Vehicles is not up to the task of sorting through foreign-issued documentation to ascertain the actual identity and age of license applicants.

As a former member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its predecessors, Anthony has dealt firsthand with the complexity of confirming the identity of immigrants and even helped to process Bosnian refugees to resettle in the United States.

  • How will an RMV clerk know a foreign-issued birth certificate or other document is real or a forgery?
  • If this legislation becomes law, the Auditor’s Office must play a role in ensuring the RMV develops the regulations and procedures that deny would-be criminals to establish fake identities by abusing an ill-conceived system.
Labor and Workers Rights
 
Anthony respects the important contribution of labor unions in Massachusetts. He was raised by a dedicated member of the Steelworkers Union and personally served as a union steward with the American Federation of Government Employees. He believes that our public employees are vital parts of our community and will honor their expertise and commitment to public service if elected.
 
Anthony believes the Taxpayer Protection Act (Pacheco Act) has advantages and disadvantages. It strengthens our ability to offer good-paying jobs with great retirement benefits to state employees of the Commonwealth who are vested. This system is sustainable and favorable because the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust (PRIM) has continually made wise investments on behalf of those who rely on our state pension system.
 
At the same time, minority-owned contractors are unable to work with the Commonwealth because they often cannot meet the law’s requirements to offer wages and benefits on par with those of public employees. In order to address our state’s racial wealth gap, Anthony believes that the state’s Supplier Diversity Office should be granted flexibility when recommending women and minority-owned firms for state contracts. Similar reviews of the law may be warranted when determining the trade-off between good-paying jobs versus overall public benefits in areas such as climate change resiliency.
 

Checks welcome at:

Amore 2022

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