- Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is initiating an investigation into the state Department of Education's spending and contracting practices.
- The department received significant flack in August when Gov. Tom Corbett's special adviser on higher education, Ron Tomalis, resigned over growing media attention around his plush salary ($140K) and unclear responsibilities.
- The audit, which is the second DePasquale has conducted of the department, will look into the work of Tomalis as well as the oversight of contractors and consultants going as far back as 2010.
This audit will look specifically at how much the department has employed "special advisers" and whether or not these individuals have fulfilled their obligations. While DePasquale says Tomalis is not the only reason for the investigation, the general focus seems pretty similar to the issues that brought Tomalis under fire. In August, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette raised questions about Tomalis' job duties, reporting that in 14 months of work, his calendar had barely any activity, his phone logs averaged about a call a day, and he had sent out only 5 emails. Complicating confusion over his role was the fact that while he was considered the special adviser on higher education, all the projects the department showed he worked on — as proof of his real job — centered around K-12.
While oversight is important for healthy institutions, it's important to remember the auditor can only make recommendations based on what he finds and that he ultimately does not have any real power in the state department's decision making.