Environment officials asked to explain computer purchase

November 13, 1991|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- Disturbed by state environment regulators' failing grade for financial management, Maryland legislators said yesterday that they want the attorney general to decide whether laws were broken in a multimillion-dollar computer purchase.

Department of the Environment officials were asked to explain how the 4-year-old agency could have spent $2.1 million for a computer system that was budgeted for only $1.4 million.

The legislators said they wanted a legal opinion on whether the department substantially changed its specifications for the computers after the budget had been approved thereby subverting lawmakers intent when the approved the $1.4 million.

Martin W. Walsh Jr., former environment secretary, defended the department's actions, saying all of the changes had been approved by the Board of Public Works.

The attorney general will be asked to judge whether that procedure followed the letter of the law.

Questions from the Joint Budget and Audit Committee came after an audit of the environment department exposed a series of problems with its financial recordkeeping between June 1988 and January 1991.

Auditors also found the agency had failed to keep close track of shipments of hazardous waste traveling through the state.

"The message is clear that there are some serious concerns about the audit," said Delegate Howard "Pete" Rawlings, D-Baltimore.

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