Audit raises more questions about Secretary of State’s budget
A department staffer’s spouse pulled down $55,000. Travel expenses were over reimbursed.
DENVER — Colorado auditors found that Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s department failed to follow rules when conducting roughly $80,000 worth of financial transactions, according to a report published this week.
“Eight transactions and one large purchase did not adhere to various requirements established by State Fiscal Rules,” the report authors wrote.
“Four transactions for purchases of services did not use a purchase order or state contract. Three of these transactions were part of a series of 44 related purchases totaling almost $54,800, paid to a spouse of a Department employee. The fourth transaction was a monthly installment for a purchase totaling approximately $26,000.”
Neither the State Department employee nor their spouse nor the service or product provided were identified in the report. Gessler’s office didn’t return messages seeking comment.
The audit also found that department failed to use a competitive, sealed-bid process in making a $300,000 purchase and that it over-reimbursed some of its staff for travel expenses.
Gessler was fined this summer by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission for abusing his travel budget. It’s unclear whether it were those expenses that drew the eyes of the auditors or if there were also others improperly submitted.
“The department does not have adequate internal controls in place,” wrote the auditors. “[O]nly one of the three members of the department’s senior management team charged with the responsibility for making large purchases has attended formal training.”
In a response included in the report, the department acknowledged being short staffed. The department reportedly lost one staffer to retirement and one to resignation. The department committed to assigning new staff to conduct purchases and to provide the proper training.
Gessler, a Republican who is running for governor, has battled accusations leveled at the state legislature this year that he has mismanaged the department’s finances. But he is an easy target. His budget is well into the red. He argues he has been saddled with expenses incurred by a new Democratic election bill. But the department spent more than $100,000 in tax dollars over the last two years on a top-flight legal team that unsuccessfully defended him against the ethics charges. He also publicly touted large cuts he made to the business fees that have traditionally helped pay the department bills.
The audit is sure to fuel questioning at a hearing of the Joint Budget Committee, where Gessler is due to appear on Monday.
Gessler’s Department of State wasn’t the only one targeted for improvement by the auditors. The Department of Labor, Department of Human Services and the Department of Revenue, for example, also drew recommendations on how to better manage their finances.
The full audit can be read here.
[ Image by the Michael Brown Show. ]
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