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Competitive Bidding Process Skirted by Benton Commission

Benton County circumvented the competitive bidding process when it entered into a $3.7 million, five-year contract for ambulance service with the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District, state auditors found in a review of the county’s finances.

The county commission first rejected a lower bid before negotiating the deal with the hospital district, which included services beyond the scope of the original solicitation, auditors found. But the documentation from those 2009 discussions was so spotty it was unclear why.

“Purchases should be made from the vendor with the lowest price that meets bid specifications unless adequate documentation is on file supporting the decision to reject the lowest bid,” state comptroller’s office auditors wrote. County officials did not respond formally in the report, but “officials provided various reasons why the bids were rejected,” the audit says.

Auditors also criticized the parks and fair board, which entered into a lease agreement without county commission approval. The audit of fiscal year 2010 finances also found that the county was unable to produce financial statements in line with generally accepted accounting procedures and that spending exceeded appropriations by as much as $9,000 in a handful of budget categories.

TNReport has been keeping up with audits from the state comptroller’s office, including these recently posted reports:

County Not Tracking Road Material Use: Audit (Jan. 21)

Financial Disclosure Info Lacking on State Board of Education Members (Jan. 26)

Red Ink Runneth in Crossville (Jan. 28)

Moore County Officials Spent More Than They Had (Jan. 31)

Readers can peruse the original audit reports, linked from TNReport blog items and posted at the state comptroller’s website.

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Moore County Officials Spent More Than They Had

Lynchburg-Moore County’s spending exceeded available funds in its general fund by $310,000 when state auditors conducted an annual review of the metro government’s finances.

Auditors also found that an SUV purchased for the Emergency Management Agency had not been competitively bid, even though its price of more than $23,000 was well above the $10,000 threshold requiring competitive bids in the county’s own purchasing procedures. In response, county officials said they had notified department directors of the requirement.

Metro Moore County did not have the ability to produce financial statements in line with generally accepting accounting procedures, the audit said. Comptroller’s office auditors also found that the county used its tax-exempt status for supplies, then gave them to a contractor using them for a park lighting project. State law requires contractors to pay sales tax on property furnished to them, and Moore County should fix the mistake in coordination with the state Department of Revenue, auditors wrote.

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NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Pickett County Improperly Issued Road Construction Contract: State Audit

Pickett County officials failed to solicit competing bids for a stone contract, violating state law that requires bids for purchases over $10,000, according to a state audit released earlier this week.

County officials bought $156,000 in crushed stone for a road repair, and according to the audit, the road superintendent said he bought the stone from the quarry closest to the road being fixed. Auditors faulted him for not documenting the transportation costs and warned that the practice of just choosing a vendor could result in taxpayers over-paying for services.

Also worrying was a finding that the general sessions judge has been ordering defendants to contribute to charities of the judge’s choice in addition to paying the usual fines. That’s contrary to a state attorney general’s opinion saying that the judge has no such authority, the auditors noted.

Courts officials also failed to make deposits within three days of collection as required by state law, a persistent problem that auditors said they had noted the year before.

In Rutherford County, auditors say an employee filed false insurance claims more than $14,500, and another employee took $745 from the General Sessions Court for her personal use. The employee filing false claims had signed up two ineligible dependents for the county-provided insurance plan but has since agreed to a restitution arrangement with the county.

Other recent audits can be found on the Comptroller of the Treasury’s website.