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Zeigler reports that the state lost almost $200,000 in property during the latest quarter

State Auditor Jim Zeigler.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) called state property lost over the summer, “unacceptable.” State agencies are missing almost $200,000 in state property for the latest quarter, according to the auditor’s latest report by the State Auditor’s office. Zeigler’s report, released Sept. 5, cited stolen computers and wrecked state vehicles atop the list of losses.

“The total loss to the state, and thus to taxpayers, was $199,689.01 from 81 assets with a depreciated value of $108,345.50 due to the age of some of the items, Zeigler said.”

Forty items, half of the losses, were categorized as lost which means that no one knew where these items were or what happened to them.

“This is concerning,” Zeigler said.

There were 33 items were categorized as stolen, some from offices and others from employee vehicles or residences.

Eight items were destroyed. Five of those were wrecked vehicles. Three items were broken and thrown out without completing the proper paperwork to scrap the items.

“One of our biggest problems is that not all agencies hold employees accountable for missing items,” Zeigler said. “Items reported as stolen require a police report. For all items, whether stolen, lost or destroyed, the agency director must decide whether negligence was involved on the part of the responsible employee. When agency directors deem negligence is involved, they are required to seek repayment from the employee. However, if the employee is no longer employed with the state, there is no recourse for restitution.”

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“The way current law is written, when the Auditor’s Office finalizes a property audit and there are assets reported as lost, stolen or destroyed, a report is sent to the Attorney General’s Office to investigate further,” Zeigler said. “Responses from the AG’s Office usually state that the dollar amount of the losses isn’t great enough to offset the cost associated with investigation and recovery to the state, so no further action is taken. Once my office completes an audit, I have no enforcement powers.”

Zeigler says that he may ask a legislator to introduce a bill in the 2019 regular legislative session to give enforcement powers of the state audits to the State Auditor rather than another agency.

“Unless something changes, no one will be held accountable for the losses that result from negligence by employees,” Zeigler said. “That is not acceptable. Not enforcing the audits eliminates the deterrent effect.”

While the State Auditor is a constitutional position created by Alabama’s 1901 Constitution, the legislature removed the auditing powers from the Auditor’s office during the 1930s. That function is now handled by the Examiner of Public Accounts, which answers directly to the legislature. The Auditor is responsible for doing property inventories for state government.

Jim Zeigle is seeking re-election in the November 6 general election. Miranda Karrine Joseph is the Democratic Party nominee for the office.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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