Tuesday, February 12, 2008
A state holiday when virtually everyone else is working? Sure, why not? I mean, Connecticut state employees have worked two full, five-day weeks since the January 28 Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. They must be exhausted.
They need recovery time and, yeah, a few hours to spread around some of your taxpayer money, which funds their salaries and their paid days off.
They’re not just leading cushy lives with great retirement and health-insurance benefits. They’re heroes of the Connecticut economy. All hail Abe Lincoln’s birthday!
Blog-o-rama is celebrating Honest Abe by plowing through a new audit report of the state Department of Agriculture. And speaking of culture, there’s an old-time accounting process there that’s a dangerous throwback to those pre-computer days of peciled-in ledgers, cash receipts and the temptation of embezzlement.
The Auditors of Public Accounts – Kevin Johnston and Bob Jaekle – regularly crank out these departmental reviews, which should be read like the New York tabloids: from back to front.
This one, covering the two years starting July 1, 2004, is only 23 pages, but it points out some glaring administrative problems. First, the DOA’s lucrative shellfish leases, sections of Long Island Sound used by oyster and clam farmers, were renewed AFTER the start of a new lease period. You can’t imagine the state got the most-competitive offer under that scenario.
“In our review of four leases renewed during our audited period, we found that the four leases were renewed between two weeks and over eight months after the beginning of the new lease periods,” the audit says. “We were not provided any documentation to explain the delays.”
The DOA responded that the four leases were involved in a dispute over contractual language with the attorney general and have since been resolved.
Also, the auditors said the regional farmer’s market in Hartford had many problems among its 26 tenants, including incomplete leases, missing or inadequate insurance and surety bonds.
At locations where DOA employees accept fees, the same employee who collects the fees was responsible for processing the licenses with “no independent verification that the amounts received were deposited,” the report says.
The DOA responded that it will change the system and make sure those who deposit fees will not be those who collect them.
In the dog license-fee procedure, funds in the DOA’s Animal Population Control Account were occasionally miscalculated. Payments received from nearly two dozen towns were not documented. To cap it (Arf! Arf!) the DOA didn’t keep track of the number of dog tags given to towns and cities or reconcile them to cash flow. There’s also no paper trail of DOA attempts to follow-up on towns that did not submit annual fees.
Oh yeah, and the DOA couldn’t verify the accuracy of cash receipts.
The DOA response was that a spreadsheet would be set up displaying the license tags for towns and cities and the amount received from town clerks, who issue the tags.
They won’t be doing it today, again, because the DOA employees are celebrating Abe Lincoln by stimulating the state economy.