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Trib editorial: MAWC, invite state audit now

| Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, 7:24 p.m.
Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County crews located a water leak that had interrupted service to about a dozen homes along Banfield Road in Gilpin on Jan. 3
Joyce Hanz | For the Tribune-Review
Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County crews located a water leak that had interrupted service to about a dozen homes along Banfield Road in Gilpin on Jan. 3

If legislators change existing state law that prohibits his office from auditing municipal authorities (unless he's invited to do so), Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County would be among the first he'd target.

Rather than reject what MAWC officials call “a redundant performance audit,” they should take the opportunity to clear the air by inviting an audit by Mr. DePasquale's office.

That would give approximately 145,000 ratepayers a much better idea of MAWC's fiscal health and internal financial controls, separate and apart from the audit MAWC commissioned that covered its 2016-17 fiscal years. MAWC officials say such private audits haven't produced negative findings — which amounts to “take our word for it.”

To the contrary, a state audit would provide much better insight into such issues as MAWC's recent acquisitions of three smaller systems and imposition of rate increases of 25 percent for 2016, 7 percent in 2017 and another 7 percent on tap this year.

DePasquale says “the No. 1 consistent request” he receives from the public “is to audit municipal authorities.” Westmoreland County Controller Jeff Balzer says MAWC is “the No. 1 topic as far as questions I receive out in public.” Whether MAWC likes it or not, these are the public's perceptions.

MAWC's unelected officials should neither wait for nor resist that change in state law. They should provide what ratepayers want and deserve: greater transparency and accountability, which a voluntary state audit would deliver — along with dispelling any doubts about the efficiency and integrity of MAWC's operations.

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