July 24, 2010

Auditors tell Jessup prisons to improve internal controls

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By Megan Poinski

Megan@MarylandReporter.com

The correctional facilities in Jessup housing about 2,700 prisoners need to improve record keeping on finances and equipment, state auditors say.

A new report from the Office of Legislative Audits on the Jessup Region of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services – including a maximum security prison and a medium security prison for adult men – found that shoddy record keeping caused problems in fund and equipment balances.

While the findings did not indicate any major problems, Legislative Auditor Bruce Myers said that the correctional district still has some things to work on.

“We’ve had other prisons that were certainly worse,” Myers said. The last audit of the Baltimore region, done in 2006, sparked a hearing of the legislature’s Joint Audit Committee.

The prisons house a total of 2,708 inmates, and employ 935 people – including 735 correctional officers.

Most of the problems in the audit had to do with incomplete records. Inmate accounts, made up of money inmates earn or receive in prison, were not reconciled for seven months. In September 2009, Jessup’s balance of funds was $140,000 less than what the state comptroller had on the books. Additionally, in August and September last year, the correctional region paid $8,240 in overdraft fees.

Records of purchases and inventories were not kept well either, auditors say. Out of 10 purchases tracked in the audit, half were not included in detailed records. Additionally, the inventories did not keep track of items purchased or used, and resulted in thousands of dollars in differences in inventory.

Auditors also noticed that there were several positions with responsibilities that were too broad. Six employees who could initiate purchases could also change those transactions after someone else approved them – meaning that these employees could freely change purchases. Also, the person in charge of the storerooms is also in charge of maintaining the inventory – meaning any discrepancies could go unchecked.

The audit recommended that the prison region make some changes in the way that records are kept and accounts are managed.

Correctional officials agreed with all of the recommendations, and outlined changes they have implemented in response to the audit. All bank reconciliations have been brought up to date, and a new inventory management system has been put in place. Additionally, new procedures to approve procurement and inventory changes have been written to allow for more internal controls.