Audit finds ‘significant weaknesses’ in Minnesota firefighter board’s financial management

The state board tasked with ensuring Minnesota’s firefighters are properly trained and educated had “significant weaknesses” in how it managed its finances to comply with state law.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released its report on the Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education (MBFTE) on Wednesday, noting that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), which the board operates within, also had some shortcomings.

According to the report, the two-and-a-half-year audit revealed several failures by MBFTE and DPS to properly document things like employee overtime approvals and eligibility for COVID-19 leave, to monitor how federal money and aid given to other organizations was used, and to demonstrate that the instructors they paid were qualified to provide necessary training.

While the report doesn’t highlight any fraud or misuse of funds, it doesn’t do much to foster trust in the board’s financial management. However, some fixes appear to need help from state lawmakers.

During the audit period, the board’s expenditures totaled $18.6 million. Of that, over $4.2 million went to four fire-related programs in the state: the Minnesota Air Rescue Team (MART), Task Force 1 (TF1), Minnesota Firefighter Initiative (MnFIRE), and Arrowhead Regional Urban Search and Rescue (USAR). Those funds are used for a wide variety of items, like equipment, training and wages.

However, the board didn’t provide any oversight to ensure the funds were used appropriately because it doesn’t have any authority to do so under state law, the report states. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS previously reported that a past audit found “a number of concerning issues” in a grant program administered by one of those programs.

DPS Commissioner Bob Jacobson wrote a response letter to OLA, saying, “DPS concurs with your review that DPS did not have adequate internal controls and provide sufficient oversight of the MBFTE program” and said the department has already or plans to implement several fixes recommended by OLA.

Click here to read the full report.