Malcolm Kenyatta announces run for Pa. Auditor General

Malcolm Kenyatta. (Photo by Amanda Swiger).

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta has announced a run for Auditor General, a position tasked with ensuring that all state money is spent properly. Kenyatta, a Democrat, has served in the Pa. General Assembly since 2018 and was the first out LGBTQ person of color to do so. 

“There’s only one job in state government that gets to spend every day identifying mismanagement and problems in government, and then laying out solutions about how we should fix those things that we find,” Kenyatta said. “As somebody who’s been on the State Government committee, which has legislative oversight over state agencies as well as our elections, and on the Commerce committee, and on the Finance committee — I’ve already been providing that legislative oversight.”  

The auditor general is “the chief fiscal watchdog” for the state, according to the Pa. Department of Auditor General website. The function of the department is to perform audits, or evaluations, to ensure that state money is spent legally and accordingly. That manifests in financial audits, performance audits, and attestation engagements, as well as examinations, reviews, and compliance audits, according to the state website. 

If elected, Kenyatta plans to rebuild the Pa. School Audit Bureau, “which was completely dismantled by the current auditor,” he said. The bureau works to ensure that funds are properly allocated in Pennsylvania schools. Kenyatta would also prioritize doing right by workers, including addressing wage theft, worker misclassification and wage-splitting. He also hopes to use state dollars to repair roads and bridges, including fighting for workers’ rights.  

Kenyatta said it is paramount to ensure “that the people who actually build the roads and bridges are paid for that work, that the safety requirements that we need to have in place to protect those individuals, that all those things are done,” he said.  

To accomplish that, the three-term state rep hopes to establish a new worker liaison in the auditor general’s office. If a deficit in worker pay or safety protocol reaches the level of criminality, Kenyatta would ensure that it gets reported to the attorney general’s office “for prosecution if it’s warranted,” he said. 

“Right now, it really is a mess. I think of huge companies who get a lot of state dollars who then use those dollars to actually engage in union busting. That’s not how our dollars should be used.”

Kenyatta’s third order of business if elected would be to utilize the office to ensure that Pennsylvania communities are healthy and safe. That would include working to ensure that funds allocated to state hospitals and long-term care facilities go to workers who showed up daily at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic but who never received due hazard pay or on-the-job protections. Secondly, Kenyatta would create a set of best practices for Pa. municipalities and counties on how to allocate money to tackle gun violence intervention. 

“There’s a real outcry in terms of us investing more money not just to fully fund our police, but to do all the things we need to do on the front end to deal with public safety,” Kenyatta said.  

On how his past political experience qualifies him to serve as auditor general, Kenyatta said that his tenure in the Pa. General Assembly already requires him to oversee state agencies. 

“When people come in asking for money, we’re asking really hard questions about what they’ve done with it already, about how additional investments matter, and how we can be better stewards of those dollars,” he said.  

He referenced the Clawback Act, legislation that he introduced, which would ensure that all state loan and grant programs actually contain funds. If those funds are not used properly, taxpayers would be able to reclaim that money.

Kenyatta also cited the Fighting Chance Act, on which he collaborated with former Republican Rep. Andrew Lewis. The bill “would require the agencies overseeing occupational licensure, and the board of probation and parole, to reduce red tape by 25 percent over the next three years, with the intent to eliminate unnecessary barriers for folks trying to get into important occupations,” Kenyatta and Lewis wrote in an op-ed published on PennLive

If Kenyatta wins the Democratic primary, his Republican opponent will likely be current Auditor General Tim DeFoor, who won the seat in 2020. A spokesperson for DeFoor told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he will announce his run for reelection sometime this summer or early fall. Prior to his post as auditor general, DeFoor worked as special investigator in the state Office of Inspector General, where he looked into government and contractor fraud, waste and abuse. He also worked as a special agent in the Pa. Office of Attorney General, where he investigated Medicaid fraud. In 2015 DeFoor was elected Dauphin County Controller.

Kenyatta brought up the fact that at a 2021 hearing led by the Pa. House State Government committee, DeFoor refused to answer questions about whether he thought the 2020 election was fair. Republican Rep. Seth Grove of York scheduled 14 such hearings in order to investigate the 2020 election and to conduct a more expansive evaluation of Pennsylvania’s Election Code, Spotlight PA reported. 

Kenyatta said the State Government committee, which he served on, was pushing a constitutional amendment to have the auditor general become responsible for auditing future statewide elections. At the hearing, Kenyatta asked DeFoor whether he thought the 2020 election was fair. In response, DeFoor said he thought that his election was fair, but wouldn’t discuss his thoughts on other election results. DeFoor was the first Republican to win the Pa. auditor general seat in over two decades. 

DeFoor said that he was at the hearing only to testify about a 2019 audit of Pennsylvania’s outdated voter registration system, which was run by the previous auditor general, Democrat Eugene DePasquale, Spotlight PA further reported. 

Referring to the Democratic legacy of the state’s Auditor General Office, Kenyatta said, “I think we have a real history of putting people in that office who provide vision, and understanding that the issue we face is not that we don’t have enough accountants, it’s that we don’t have leadership.”

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