WASTE WATCH: Audits reveal dozens of state computers missing

WASTE WATCH: Audit reveals dozens of state computers missing.

Dozens of state-owned computers and laptops have been reported missing or untraceable, according to the Illinois State Auditor General's Office.

NewsChannel 20 pulled data from every most recent publicly released departmental audit, and discovered at least nine state agencies have been docked for inadequate control over computer inventory. Others were docked for weaknesses in controls over state property.

"There are deficiencies in the [inventory] process," said Jim Hogge, a partner and auditing expert for Eck, Schafer & Punke in Springfield. "It is frustrating as a taxpayer to know that dollars that you are contributing, aren't being accounted for properly."

The nine state agencies docked for physical inventory issues include: The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Western Illinois University, The Department of Veteran Affairs, Illinois State Police, the Illinois State Fire Marshal Office, Southern Illinois University, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Corrections.

According to the latest audit reports available to the public HERE, auditors discovered the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was not able to locate a laptop valued at $3,682 during the Fiscal Year 2016 annual inventory inspection. According to the report, the missing laptop was believed to be sent to one the State approved recycling vendors, however , the Department did not have documentation to confirm the transfer. According to a spokesperson, the department has implemented a check-list like system to support its inventory control process.

According to findings in 2017, Southern Illinois University was unable to locate 220 computer equipment items from the Carbondale campus during their annual inventory. The original cost of the items totaled $306,005. Of the items, four were reported as stolen and were investigated by the University Police Department. NewsChannel 20 has not yet received a comment from a University spokesperson.

According to compliance examinations for two years ending June 2015, the Department of Public Health was unable to locate 65 computers totaling about $75,000. The department considered the 38 desktop computers and 27 laptop computers lost, as none had been reported as stolen prior to the annual physical inventory. In a statement, spokesperson Melaney Arnold wrote:

"It is important to remember that these audits findings occurred during the previous administration. The age of the missing desktops and laptops date all the way from 1995 to 2007. Since that time, IDPH has been able to determine the disposition and status of 58 of the desktops and laptops. In most cases, the desktops and laptops were turned in to CMS as surplus equipment, but the tracking paperwork was not completed before the disposal, so the items were classified as missing. During the current administration, IDPH has updated its internal IT Directive and has implemented stricter protocols for tracking inventory."

According to findings under the Department of Corrections, in year-ending 2016, the agency was unable to locate 351 computer items in 2016, and hundreds more in earlier years. The missing computer inventory in FY 2016 totaled $386,439. In a statement, spokesperson Lindsey Hess wrote:

"The Department has located approximately 500 items of equipment that were identified as missing two years ago, in fiscal years 15 and 16. We continue to work with the Department of Central Management Services and the Department of Innovation and Technology to ensure timely investigations are performed on items not located during annual inventory and make an assessment of those reconciled to determine whether missing computers, if any, contained confidential information."

The Department of Agriculture was docked for its inability to locate two laptops and a weighing scale totaling $23,254 in year-ending 2017. In a statement, Public Information officer Morgan Booth wrote:

"As noted in our audit report, the Department agrees with the finding, but has begun implementation of a corrective plan of action. New procedures resulting from the Department’s conversion into the new Enterprise Resource Program with SAP replacing much of the current software and programs that are used by the Department today that are very out of date should clear up much of the confusion surrounding property and assets held by the Department."

The Illinois Office of the Fire Marshal was docked for not being about to locate computer equipment during Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016. Auditors noted four computers were missing, including two laptops totaling $3,109 and two tablet computers totaling $2,919. NewsChannel 20 has not yet received a comment from a department spokesperson.

The Illinois Department of State Police was docked for being unable to locate a computer monitor valued at $165. In a statement, spokesperson Lt. Matt Boerwinkle wrote:

"As the Department noted in response to the finding of one piece of missing equipment mentioned in the audit report from two years ago, we will continue to process property transactions within the allowable timeframes and ensure accurate information is entered into the system. And, we continue to look for ways to adequately house and document equipment that is no longer in use."

The Department of Veteran Affairs was docked for being unable to locate eight computers during fiscal year 2016. In a written statement, spokesperson Dave MacDonna wrote:

"Since the audit finding two years ago, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs has initiated a new accounting system which combines the payment for, recording and reporting of State property into a single system. This system will allow for more accurate recording and reporting of purchased property."

Western Illinois University was docked for being unable to locate 44 computers with an original cost of $55,327 during their latest published annual inventory. In a statement, Interim VP for Administration Services William Polley wrote:

"Since the audit, 21 of the 44 devices which were noted as missing during the audit have been found. None of the remaining devices have been reported stolen. The University has started collecting media access control (MAC) addresses on devices to help locate them if they are not on the network. The University has also started collecting contact information for computer related items to help determine equipment locations by associating a specific person with a specific device."

NewsChannel 20 spoke to taxpayers who agree, they are pleased that state agencies are taking strides to correct their inventory systems.

"You have to do diligent tracking," taxpayer Steve Poner said. "You'd think with computers, you'd do a better job than we have."

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