Updated: 01/24/2014 8:03 AM
Created: 01/23/2014 7:53 PM KSTP.com
By: Stephen Tellier
A newly-released audit reveals widespread problems at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Auditors say the agency in charge of keeping Minnesotans safe isn't doing a good enough job of keeping your tax dollars safe.
We're talking about the taxes you pay when you buy a car or register -- and re-register -- your car every year. DPS takes in more than $1 billion in such taxes every year, and auditors say the agency isn't properly protecting that money.
DPS showed "an unacceptable high risk of error or fraud occurring without detection," "did not safeguard assets held in the vault for the cashiers' office," -- a vault stocked with license tabs and cash -- and failed to adequately monitor some of its payroll transactions at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and State Patrol.
Those are just a few of the audit's findings.
"The department hadn't done a good job of looking at their operations and identifying where the risks are in their operations," Cecile Ferkul, deputy legislative auditor at the Office of the Legislative Auditor, said.
Auditors found no fraud or abuse but say DPS might not have been able to find it if either had occurred.
And one $9,000 problem may be a microcosm of the entire issue.
"They made a payment to the wrong county. Rather than recover the money and issue that payment to the correct county, they called up that county and said, 'Would you write a check to the other county to cover that?' And we just thought that was so inappropriate," Ferkul said. "Somebody should have been involved -- more than one person should have been involved in, 'What are we going to do?'"
DPS issued the following statement: "The Department of Public Safety is committed to ensuring that public funds are managed properly and accounting standards are adhered to. We appreciate the Legislative Auditor's review and will continue our work to improve the agency's internal controls."
"Some of these issues are ones that we've had in past audits," Ferkul said.
In fact, four out of five problems auditors uncovered at DPS back in 2005 and 2007 still have not been corrected.
DPS responded to the audit by saying it has already implemented about half of the recommendations auditors made in the most recent audit. But it also said it could take months -- if not years -- to complete all of the changes.