State government missing more than $12M worth of property

Property valued at more than $12 million — 5,366 different items — are currently classified as missing inventory in various parts of state government, according to a state comptroller’s review that is the subject of a WSMV TV report.

The list spans 38 divisions of the state, from agencies to commissions. The most commonly missing property?
Computer parts, followed by printers and radio repeaters. (Note: The full 5,366-item list is HERE.)

Other items are more surprising, including four cash registers unaccounted for by the Department of Education, six golf carts missing from the Department of Environment and Conservation and even a GPS lost in the heavy brush, courtesy of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

“It seems like the state should be able to keep track of that stuff,” said Alex Vey, a taxpayer.

The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury agrees. Every four to six years, its auditors review how agencies protect their property.

“It’s important to understand that all of this is a state asset, and it was paid for mainly by taxpayer dollars and that’s why it’s so important to safeguard this property,” said John Dunn, spokesman for the Comptroller’s Office.

But nothing in state law dictates how departments recover their inventory. Instead, it’s up to each department to track down its own assets.

Most agencies have what’s called property officers. If something can’t be located, they try finding it. For example, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is still looking for two M-14 rifles.

Spokesperson Jennifer Donnals pointed to a lack of oversight.

“Two employees were disciplined over this issue,” Donnals wrote in an email. “One retired immediately and the other was suspended and transferred to a different assignment. We do not know the location of the rifles and that remains under investigation.”

If property is lost or stolen, they file a police report, or in some cases, like at TWRA, employees might pick up the tab, if they’re found at fault. And even those policies vary by department.

“People are human. People are going to misplace things, and there are times when things may even be stolen,” Dunn said.

But many departments claim their “missing” inventory isn’t exactly missing.

With more than 1,100 items, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security tops the list. In an email, a spokesperson explained that many of the items were considered surplus, which means they were sent to another agency or auctioned off. The spokesperson said many items were disposed of without the proper paperwork.