CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State officials have been trying to make sure the Department of Homeland Security can find all its equipment.
A Legislative Audit published this past week shows that the agency hasn’t been able to account for $254,000 in trailers. The most expensive of those is a Pepro Trailer valued at $113,075.
The agency also is responsible for a utility task vehicle valued at $8,999 that can’t be found.
“Additionally, the Legislative Auditor was informed that assets of considerable value have been loaned out to other state agencies in the past,” the audit stated.
“However, due to the lack of inventory management over the years, Homeland Security is currently unable to locate or account for these items.”
And the agency indicated it has items located in remote locations that haven’t been inventoried. Those include items such as water pumps, valued at about $1,500 each, or radio equipment.
“The Legislative Auditor concludes that this is problematic not only because the Division uses millions of dollars in state and federal funds to purchase items, but also because the federal government gives the Division items of considerable value to be used to carry out its mission,” the audit stated.
“Despite this, no effort has been made in recent years to account for these assets and protect them against theft or misuse.”
The agency says it knows it has a problem.
“We recognize the significance of the asset problem and have and are taking major steps to correct this issue,” Homeland Security officials wrote in a response.
— WV Legislature (@wvlegislature) May 22, 2018
The problem is that the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management hasn’t put adequate controls in place to keep track of its equipment, the Legislative Auditor concluded.
Early this year, it dawned on Homeland Security officials that the division’s inventory was not updated or accurate, according to the audit.
A minimal number of fixed assets had been inventoried from 2013 to 2018. And it had been several years since the last physical inventory and reconciliation.
The agency gave a few reasons for its inattentiveness.
Previously, the agency did not have a section or a particular person with the specific responsibility of asset management.
“Rather, the finance and accounting manager was given the responsibility of asset management, and previous individuals in that position did not place much emphasis on it,” the audit stated.
The agency also indicated that when it transitioned to the wvOasis system, there was not much effort toward ensuring a smooth transition for asset management.
To improve, Homeland Security hired a part-time, temporary employee on Jan. 8 to make sure the agency has all its stuff.
The employee was trained at Surplus Property and started putting together an updated inventory, according to the audit. The worker is conducting walkthroughs of agency facilities, listing the assets and then having them entered into wvOasis.
That process is how the agency discovered nine camping and box trailers that had been on its asset list could not be located.
The missing trailers drew the focus of Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso as he listened to the audit results during interim meetings.
“Where do you think these trailers are? How can they come up missing?” Prezioso asked.
The director for Homeland Security, Jimmy Gianato, responded that the trailers were provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2001.
Back then, Gianato said, they were distributed across the state to counties, state agencies and non-profits. At some point, he said, the trailers were titled to the Office of Emergency Services.
“We have been vigorously trying to locate all of those, and these are the ones we still have to locate,” Gianato said.
“Some have been destroyed, the roofs have started to leak, the insides have rotted out and they’ve been surplused. If you can imagine, a cheap FEMA trailer in 2001 and now we’re at 2017 — a lot of the counties after determining no more use instead of returning them they just disposed of them.”
Homeland Security has developed a corrective action plan with target dates to resolve its issues.
Those included meetings with all staff to emphasize a culture of keeping track of property, a review of agency policies to be completed by the end of this month and dedicating some employees to tracking property.
Jeff Sandy, the secretary for the Division of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said he wants to take on a broad-based effort to keep track of materials.
“One of our weaknesses we have is separation of duties,” Sandy said.
“There will be a separate entity — Division of Administrative Services — that will do the inventories, which will make sure the money is spent properly and individuals — not to say anything about Jimmy — but Jimmy and other individuals will have that separation from that, so they know that when an employee orders something or has something that needs to be on an inventory an independent person that can be uninfluenced is handling that.”