Auditor General Would Need Permission to Look at PWSA

Auditor General Would Need Permission to Look at PWSA

In reaction to this week’s issues with water in part of the City of Pittsburgh that affected around 100,000 customers Pittsburgh City Council wants the Auditor General and Attorney General to look into the operations of the independent Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

The City’s Annual Financial Report describes the PWSA as “… legally separate from the City and is reported as a component unit. The PWSA Board consists of one City Council member, the City Treasurer, the City Finance Director, and four members chosen by the Mayor, and the City can to impose its will on PWSA”.

The PWSA is audited annually, and with City Council and administration representation on the board it is not clear what another inquiry will uncover. One of the officials called upon by Council, the Auditor General, noted “…his office is open to auditing PWSA. But under state rules, he said, PWSA itself would need to request the review.”  Why?

PWSA was created under the Municipal Authorities Act of 1945 and that statutes says that the Attorney General “…shall have the right to examine the books, accounts and records of any authority”.  It is curious as to why the state would not place the responsibility of looking at financials in the top Auditing official, but it is similar to the issue we wrote about when the Allegheny County Controller wanted to audit authorities related to the County, only to have a court rule that the Attorney General had responsibility for three and the Auditor General for one.

This is an area that the General Assembly should examine.  It does not make a lot of sense to have auditing responsibility placed under the Attorney General’s office rather than the Auditor General’s.