Almost Half of Sheriff's Dept. Inventory Unaccounted For27-Mar-2017
After longtime Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel stepped down, the investigation into mismanagement of the Sheriff's Office's funds continues--and the results of the audit show more mismanagement than first indicated by an earlier audit last year.
The audit was first ordered after an Oklahoma County judge discovered that former Sheriff Whetsel was overcharging inmates by having them pay for indirect costs of incarceration as part of their daily rate of incarceration. In addition to the operational costs of the jail, the sheriff was calculating things like salaries paid to court clerk employees, county juvenile justice bureau workers and the county public defender's staff in the daily incarceration rate.
A month later, Oklahoma County District Judge Ray C. Elliott slashed the daily incarceration rate for inmates and expressed disgust with the way the inmates had charged by the sheriff's office. Around the same time, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater requested an investigative audit alleging "multiple areas of concern" with financial issues at the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office.
Despite the results of an early audit showing mismanagement Whetsel called "mistakes," the sheriff was elected once again last November. However, his next term was short-lived, as the sheriff announced his retirement and stepped down early this month.
But just because he is no longer in office does not mean the investigation has ceased. In fact, the latest audit shows an inability to account for almost half the Sheriff's Office's inventory. In checking the inventory of 7,844 items, auditors were unable to locate more than 3,000 items. The missing items have a total value of more than $3.3 million.
The audit shows the scope of the inadequate tracking of inventory:
Of the 7,844 items listed on inventory, 3,041 items could not be located or reviewed in any manner. Some of these items may be in the possession of the Sheriff’s office, but the inventory records did not contain enough information to clearly indentify the items or the inventory items were not clearly marked. The items that could be located have a total cost of $16,588,988.97. The items that we were unable to locate or verify had a total cost of $3,362,003.45.
Among the items which could not be verified or located were 18 vehicles the Sheriff's Office said were disposed of, yet there was no supporting documentation of their removal. Five additional vehicles could not be located, and the Sheriff's Office had no documentation of these vehicles at all.
Additionally, the auditors were unable to locate and verify 23 firearms. According to the audit, "[T]he Sheriff’s office does not maintain a log of all County-owned firearms and to whom this equipment is assigned."
The audit states serious concerns with the management of county-owned property by the Sheriff's Office: "Policies and procedures have not been adequately designed and implemented by the County to ensure the accurate reporting and safeguarding of fixed assets inventory items, as well as adequate procedures to ensure equipment is properly safeguarded and identified in accordance with state statutes. . . . These conditions resulted in noncompliance with state statutes. Opportunities for loss and misappropriation of county assets may be more likely to occur when the County does not have procedures in place to account for fixed assets."
In other words, under Whetsel's watch, the sheriff's department did not keep track of its inventory nor keep record of what items--including firearms--where assigned to whom.
Undersheriff P.D. Taylor, who is acting sheriff pending a special election, responded to the audit report:
This audit brought many things to light as it relates to processes and procedures regarding inventory and its tracking and disposition. Through the years, due to staffing issues across the agency, Sheriff Whetsel felt the need to reduce the property division from six employees to three. This move placed a strain on the property division to maintain adequate controls and records for the agency. Since March 2, 2017, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) has added two additional staff in the property division.
This process also brought to light that the property supervisor had some confusion on how to properly complete the paperwork necessary to dispose of property where it would be removed from inventory. A new supervisor has been installed over the area, and training opportunities are being identified to educate personnel on all facets of property acquisition and disposal as controls and procedures are being reinstituted.
The OCSO is also in the process of identifying a member from every division to be assigned as an Inventory Officer to aid in the continual and annual accounting of inventory. This process will ensure a more accurate and seamless tracking of inventory throughout the agency without overloading any one specific division. Procedures are also being developed wherein internal purchase requisitions will be required to pass through property prior to submission to the finance division to aid in accountability and awareness of inventory needs.
It is the intent of the agency at the conclusion of this audit to review the accurate inventory list and remove those items that have been previously disposed, identify those items needing disposal and correcting the inventory list to match those items on hand. This will give the agency a fresh start from an inventory perspective from the previous 2 administrations spanning the last 37 years where this particular area may not have received the appropriate level of attention.
Regardless of the staffing concerns and the "confusion" over how to document asset disposal, the audit shows inadequate supervision, care, and tracking of county assets held by the Sheriff's office. This certainly appears to be a decades-long failure and a systemic problem in the Office. In light of the mismanagement of county funds and property held by the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Department, it seems clear that whoever is elected to fill the vacancy left by former Sheriff John Whetsel will have much work to do in getting the Office's finances and inventory in order--and keeping them that way.
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