Auditor candidates promise efficiency, public awareness
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Seeking his sixth four-year term as state auditor, Glen Gainer stressed improvements in efficiency and transparency in the office since he first arrived in 1993.
Republican challenger Larry Faircloth said Wednesday he would do more to promote public awareness of the office.
"People who you talk to on the street have little or no idea what the Auditor's Office does," said Faircloth, a former state delegate from Berkeley County and frequent candidate for statewide office.
During a meeting with Gazette editors Wednesday, Faircloth also contended that efforts under Gainer to promote transparency, including websites that allow the public to track state agencies' purchasing and payroll records, made it possible for West Virginia and other states to be victimized by an international payment scam in 2009.
He suggested certain information, such as businesses' federal identification numbers, should not be accessible.
"Whatever needs to not be placed on the public Internet ... that needs to be in a secure location," he said.
Calling the scam the "darkest hour in my tenure as auditor," Gainer said that, unlike many state auditors and comptrollers who wanted to investigate the incident internally he immediately went public with the news, which he believes hastened the arrests and convictions of six conspirators in the elaborate fraud.
Gainer said he works closely with other state auditors to red-flag any suspicious activity, such as businesses abruptly changing locations of headquarters on their invoices for payment.
Gainer noted that when he took office in 1993, the state was in dire financial shape.
"There were days when we closed the day with literally no money in the bank," he said, saying it was not unusual for vendors to wait as long as 180 days to receive payments from the state.
Gainer said he implemented changes, including establishing a state payment process in law, providing formal training for state agency employees, and expanding direct deposit of payroll and vendor payments to reduce waste and improve efficiency.
"Now, we're paying virtually everyone within 30 [days]," he said during Wednesday's meeting.
Gainer said he is seeking another term in order to oversee the start-up of the state's Enterprise Resource Planning system -- a massive, centralized computer system that will replace more than 100 payroll, payments, human resources, and other computer networks statewide.
The $160 million project will streamline payroll, purchasing and inventory tracking for all state agencies, providing $300 million a year in cost savings over current archaic systems when fully operational, he said.
"Completion of that project is my number one goal. That's why I'm running for re-election," Gainer said.
Faircloth, meanwhile, said that after 24 years in the House of Delegates, including nine years as a member of the Finance Committee, he is well versed on state finances and purchasing.
Faircloth said he is confident he will be able to find additional ways to streamline operations in the Auditor's Office.
"If elected, I will look at all aspects of it, and see if there's a way to reduce the size of programs," he said.
The candidates applauded each other for running positive, "honorable" campaigns.
Faircloth said he has never resorted to attacks in any of his elections.
"My opponent is running his campaign and I'm running mine," he said of the current race.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.