State of Alabama loses items purchased by tax dollars - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

State of Alabama loses items purchased by tax dollars

(Source: WAFF) (Source: WAFF)
ALABAMA (WAFF) - WAFF is looking for some missing items - items you paid for and probably don't know are lost.

The state of Alabama has lost millions of dollars over the years by losing state property your tax dollars paid for.

WAFF looked into this problem four years ago and we found out, it's still a problem.

The state of Alabama is drowning in debt, $700 million dollars deep, and there is no real plan to surface.

A gasp of air, however, could come from simply keeping up with a lot of stuff your tax dollars help buy.

For example, 65 laptops and tablets that are missing, 19 snack machines that walked away, and don't forget a pool table, and eight guns labeled either lost or stolen.

Just a few of the 299 items off the State Auditor's Losses report from 2014, coming in at more than $500,000 worth.

Items lost, stolen, or even destroyed all hit the list.

We first alerted our viewers to this problem years ago, when in 2010, losses topped more than $1.6 million. Significant losses have occurred every year since.

One department consistently comes at the top of the list or close to it every year for missing property.

That's the Department of Public Safety, one of the largest in the state.

The office cost Alabama tax payers more than $166,000 in 2014, by losing eight computers at $1,000 a pop.

Add destroying a night vision scope for nearly $3,000 to the list. Throw in totaling a Dodge Charger at $22,000, and add in a stolen shotgun and bushmaster rifle at a cost of $835.

However, there's no telling the unforeseen costs if those guns end up in the wrong hands.

DPS says the losses are minimal compared to what they own, saying the losses are only .33% of their inventory.

Still, what's being done to stop all this waste? Nothing.

"The audit is simply done and the audit goes over here in a desk drawer and that's it," said State Auditor Jim Zeigler.

He was elected to be the watchdog of tax payer money over 160 state agencies, boards, and commissions.

Zeigler has only been on the job three weeks and quickly discovered, no agency or employee is penalized when things go missing.

"There has been no process," he said. "If the audit is actually enforced and somebody is held accountable, it will be a deterrent for all state workers and all officials will be better stewards of the public's property."

At this point, there's no real effort to actually find what's lost. Instead of looking for that printer or projector, Zeigler said agencies just turn around and buy a new one.

As a child, you learned how to share, but the state hasn't because there is no system in place to allow agencies to trade or share surplus items.

"Now imagine if we could do that with all purchases of major items by the state," said Zeigler. "The people first purchasing the items would first look at what's already available and already bought this can be a big money saver."

He wants the State Auditor's office to finally have some teeth to recover what's lost.

Starting with notification and moving to more aggressive means like garnishing a state employees' wages and maybe even suing if they're found negligent.

Right now, there's a state warehouse in Montgomery with $50 million worth of surplus property just sitting there gathering dust.

That $50 million could help put a dent in a $700 million shortfall.

Zeigler said there's a new auditor in town and things will be done differently to stop waste, and we're going to hold him and the other state agencies to it.

As we receive updates, we will put them on air and online for you to see. So, look for updates on WAFF 48 News and on WAFF.com.

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