More taxpayer money goes down the drain, nearly $200k in state property lost in Q3 2018

Money in trash_spending

According to Alabama’s 2018 Q3 Loss Report, state agencies were unable to account for nearly $200,000 of state property in the latest quarter.

Compiled by State Auditor Jim Zeigler — whose office is tasked with providing accountability to the taxpayers of Alabama by maintaining accurate records of all personal property valued at $500 and above by conducting  property and equipment audits for all 176 agencies statewide — the report reveals 81 items were lost in Q3 alone.

Released Sept. 5, Zeigler’s report cited stolen computers and wrecked state vehicles atop the list of losses.

“The total loss to the state, and thus to taxpayers, was $199,689.09 from 81 assets with a depreciated value of $108,345.50 due to the age of some of the items,” Zeigler said.

Forty items, half of the losses, were categorized as lost — no one is able to explain where these items were or what happened to them.

“This is concerning,” stated Zeigler. He believes the losses are “unacceptable.”

There were 33 items stolen, some from offices and others from employee vehicles or residences.

Eight items were destroyed. Five of those were wrecked vehicles, totaling a whopping $118,874.30. Three items were broken and thrown out without completing the proper paperwork to scrap the items.

Breakdown of the losses

  • Burglary/theft: 34 items
    • Purchase price: $44,924.16
  • Lost: 39 items
    • Purchase price: $34,313.63
  • Destroyed: 8 items
    • Purchase price: $120,451.30

“One of our biggest problems is that not all agencies hold employees accountable for missing items. Items reported as stolen require a police report,” explained Zeigler. “For all items, whether stolen, lost or destroyed, the agency director must decide whether negligence was involved on the part of the responsible employee. When agency directors deem negligence is involved, they are required to seek repayment from the employee.  However, if the employee is no longer employed with the state, there is no recourse for restitution.”

Zeigler continued, “The way current law is written, when the Auditor’s Office finalizes a property audit and there are assets reported as lost, stolen or destroyed, a report is sent to the Attorney General’s Office to investigate further. Responses from the AG’s Office usually state that the dollar amount of the losses isn’t great enough to offset the cost associated with investigation and recovery to the state, so no further action is taken.”

“Once my office completes an audit, I have no enforcement powers,” he said.

Holding agencies accountable

Zeigler says he may introduce a bill in the 2019 regular legislative session to give enforcement powers of the state audits to the State Auditor rather than another agency.

“Unless something changes, no one will be held accountable for the losses that result from negligence by employees.  That is not acceptable,” Zeigler said Thursday. “Not enforcing the audits eliminates the deterrent effect.”