Audit criticizes liquor board's spending

City officials report problems in purchases and tracking employees

June 20, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's Board of Liquor License Commissioners has engaged in poor spending practices, including paying an in-house employee for computer services before receiving them, an audit has found.

The audit findings, which covered the fiscal years 1998 and 1999, were released last week by city Comptroller Joan M. Pratt's office, which expressed concern about the practices.

"It's not a lot of money," city Auditor Yovonda D. Brooks said of the $16,350 computer expense. "It's the principle."

Liquor Board Executive Director Nathan C. Irby Jr. said the deficiencies have been corrected and will be prevented in the future. The agency ended last year with a $380,662 surplus.

Among the audit findings:

The board failed to use proper bidding and purchasing practices for buying computer software and training. No contract was executed, and bids were not solicited. The board hired an in-house employee, chief inspector Samuel T. Daniels, to do the work because of his computer expertise. The work had not been completed by the time of the audit.

Irby said the equipment was installed this month, and training should be completed by month's end.

Inspector expenses were not documented. A review of 45 expense reports found that 29 were not supported by receipts or invoices. A total of $7,649 was paid for expenses in 1999, the audit said. Certain reimbursed mileage descriptions noted on nine inspector expense reports showed mileage for nonwork-related purposes, such as commuting to work.

The liquor board failed to adhere to city rules requiring that attendance records be kept. Except for sign-in sheets for the full-time inspectors, no other documentation was submitted for employees. Approved requests for compensatory time earned or planned were not always prepared or supported by appropriate documentation in 20 out of 25 dates studied, the audit showed.

Irby acknowledged deficiencies in recording staff attendance. All agency personnel are expected to complete leave requests for absences of more than one or two days, he said. The issue will be addressed at a staff meeting, Irby said. The liquor board will meet Thursday and discuss the audit and agency response, he said.

The liquor board is a state agency not subject to the direct supervision of the mayor or City Council. However, the license revenues are granted to the city, which also pays board expenses.

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