Every year the Mississippi Office of State Auditor discovers missing furniture, technology and equipment from various state agencies costing millions of dollars.
Considering all these items are property of the taxpayers, state entities are ratcheting up their efforts in finding these missing millions.
It may be a cell phone here or a laptop there, but after a while they all add up as state agencies constantly fight the battle of keeping up with their inventories.
"When you purchase these items, are you being a good steward of the taxpayer resources?" asked Pickering.
Three on Your Side reviewed a hand-full of state-operated agencies and institutions to see how much public property they had missing.
DPS, which includes agencies such as the highway patrol, had a one hundred percent audit in 2010 out of a twenty-four thousand item inventory.
Auditors discovered seven hundred and seventy-three missing items worth eight-hundred and eighty-seven thousand five-hundred and four dollars at the original purchase price.
"They're in the process now of issuing demands for those items that could not be accounted for," said Pickering.
By mid-march, DPS officials said a majority of items were located with two-hundred and eighty-six still lost.
"Employees responsible for missing or lost property have been asked to pay for those items," said DPS Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz in a statement.
Which is protocol according to Pickering.
"We take the depreciated value," said Pickering. "A lot of those items may be multiple years old or have excessive amount of use."
To give you an idea of the formula used, a fax machine purchased at an unknown date for one thousand one-hundred and ninety-seven dollars is now worth eleven dollars and ninety-seven cents.
In that case the responsible employee would compensate the state out of pocket for the missing equipment.
Similarly, auditors at Jackson State University last year discovered three hundred and five missing items. Most of which were personal or notebook computers worth four-hundred and fifty thousand six-hundred and seventy-five dollars.
When it was all said and done, the employees at fault reimbursed taxpayers three thousand five-hundred and sixty-five dollars based on the depreciated value.
However, in the world of investigating inventories it's not all bad news.
"UMC is one of the great success stories," said Pickering.
In 2008, UMC lost forty-three items worth twenty-five thousand dollars. In 2010, it was a different story.
"We accomplished a one-hundred percent identification of all of the items that were in the audit at that time," said Powe. "This is really a minor miracle."
Powe said UMC has forty thousand pieces of equipment valued at two-hundred and fifty-seven million dollars.
"You have equipment as large as a ct scanner and then things as small as a pen that's worth thousands of dollars," said Powe.
With a diverse and complex inventory UMC has an army of personnel who, amongst other duties, track all these materials. In addition, eight thousand items have been outfitted with radio frequency identification, or RFID chips.
"This just makes us good stewards of the taxpayers money," said Powe.
Pickering and taxpayers can only hope more agencies will adopt UMC's vigilant approach.
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