Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Thursday that his office “will audit how the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has managed the waiver process for businesses that appealed Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 shutdown order,” according to a news release.
This is a welcome and necessary development.
We are troubled by the secrecy that accompanied the waiver process that allowed some state businesses to continue operating after the governor's statewide stay-at-home order April 1. Spotlight PA’s Cynthia Fernandez noted Thursday that “the waivers have been one of the most contentious aspects of Gov. Tom Wolf’s response ... because of perceived inconsistencies and a lack of transparency about which businesses received them.” (Spotlight PA is an independent newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer; LNP Media Group is among its partners.)
More than 40,000 businesses across the state sought waivers. DePasquale said state Senate Republicans requested the audit and that there is “bipartisan interest” in having it done.
“My audit is intended to help make sure that the waiver process is managed more smoothly should it be necessary to use it again in the future," DePasquale stated.
Part of managing it smoothly, of course, must involve openness. We agree with the April 26 LNP | LancasterOnline letter writer who asked these questions: “Who, specifically, grants or denies waivers? ... Which businesses have been granted waivers? Which businesses have been denied waivers? In the latter cases, what explanations have been offered? Again, by whom? Is there a fair appeal process? And finally, has preferential status been given to businesses on the Pennsylvania Democratic Party donor list?”
We hope DePasquale's audit gets us closer to the answers the public demands.