State auditor to keep track of federal rescue money

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Between the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the recently passed infrastructure bill West Virginia is preparing to receive about $10 billion. On MetroNews Talkline, State Auditor J. B. McCuskey said his office can help local government units track spending in real time.

The amount of federal money coming in has the potential solve many problems in the state. Infrastructure, water and drainage needs are high priorities, but getting the most value and detecting fraud as quickly as possible is the goal for McCuskey.

“The money has to make into the ground,” McCuskey said. “It has to actually be building pipes, connecting homes and accomplish the goals the legislation is set out to do.”

The West Virginia Checkbook started four years ago to give taxpayers easy to understand information about government spending. For McCuskey, it provides data that can help limit waste and abuse.

“When the money goes to local government and we’ve provided them, and they are receptive to the accounting systems with the ARP money and it helps them do their federal reporting,” McCuskey said. “But more than that, it shows them how they’re spending their money in real time and it shows their constituents the same thing.”

Real time data eliminates getting financial information in traditional reporting cycles. Information access allows officials to make financial decisions based on actual performance. It also allows taxpayers to question those decisions in real time.

“Our job is to make sure our legislators and our bureaucrats understand what they’ve done,” McCuskey said. “So, we are the bookkeeper which means that it’s job to show the people what bureaucrats have spent and show the media.”

The online portal contains detailed information directly from the government unit. In addition to descriptions of what data is being displayed on the website, questions can be submitted online or by phone.

“For the taxpayers at-large, but specifically for media members, we do very in depth training on how you can be an expert on the Checkbook and we do them monthly.”

According to McCuskey, the system allows fraud to be identified quickly to further limit possible losses.

“We believe transparency combined with government accountability is the way to make sure you have the most people watching to ensure fraud is caught fast,” McCuskey said.