MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) - Our tax dollars pay for a lot of things, including nearly $2 billion in equipment for state agencies.
Though you probably have never heard of her, State Auditor Samantha Shaw's job is to make sure all 177 state agencies, commissions and boards are keeping track of every item on their books.
"We're kind of the best insurance policy from the state of Alabama. We're the ultimate in accountability and the watchdog for people's money," she said.
Anything that costs the state $500 or more gets a bar code.
"It all belongs to the taxpayers so as far as we're concerned, a laptop is just as important as a chair," Shaw said.
Agencies are audited every two years, and that's when as many as four inventory officers physically go to each office in all 67 counties to account for the state's property.
"Yes we do go see it, we don't take anyone's word for it," Shaw said. "We go look, we barcode, we scan, we help them locate their items."
At the end of each fiscal year, Shaw's office releases a losses report, which lists every item that was lost, stolen or destroyed in that year.
[FY 2010 Losses Report (PDF)]
2010's report lists $1.7 million in missing assets, including a $30,000 tractor, A $5,000 42-inch plasma tv and a Bushmaster rifle.
"Of course everyone is concerned about firearms, what if they get in the wrong hands," Shaw said. "But we're concerned about all items, whether it's a desk, a computer, a refrigerator. We're concerned about every item that is lost."
One department has lost two $13,000 microscopes, a second has three missing boats and one agency alone has 29 missing laptops.
"That is a very, very big deal. This is not, my money or another department head's money. This belongs to the people of Alabama," Shaw said.
In part two of our series, "Where did it go?" airing Tuesday, May 24 at 10:00 p.m., we'll show you which state agency had the most missing property in 2010, and what the woman at the top has to say about it.