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PA's Auditor General Renews Calls For Expanded Authority

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is outlining a plan for the new year that includes a request for more authority.

The nonpartisan elected officer can't investigate legislative spending or municipal authorities--despite years of pushes to allow it.

DePasquale--a former House Democrat who's now in his second term as auditor general--said Monday, a spate of recent revelations that the General Assembly has paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment claims is one of the reasons he wants the ability to audit them.

"I guarantee you, 90 percent of the members--if not higher--had no idea that took place," he said. "So if members didn't know, imagine the outrage from taxpayers that that money was being used to settle those lawsuits."

It's not a new issue.

Democratic Representative Bob Freeman of Northampton County said this is the third session in a row he's tried to get a bill passed to open the legislature to audits.

"I'm not sure leadership considers it one of their priorities," he said.

Freeman added, however, since news broke of the legislature's sexual harassment settlements, a few more fellow lawmakers have begun supporting his bill.

DePasquale's simultaneous push to audit municipal authorities is another issue that has seen repeated fits and starts.

Right now, his office can only audit when invited.

But he said success in recent municipal reviews may help convince people it's a good idea.

"When the Philadelphia Parking Authority and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority responded to public pressure and invited my team in, we uncovered wide-ranging problemsthat led to dramatic reforms at both entities," he said.

If he is granted additional power to audit the authorities, DePasquale said first on his list will be the Scranton Sewer Authority, the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, and the Greater Erie Community Action Committee.

All three entities have been roiled by financial issues in recent years.