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Canada Provincial auditor faults how Sask. bought guns for Highway Patrol

02:55  24 june  2020
02:55  24 june  2020 Source:   leaderpost.com

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Meanwhile, the auditor was raising concerns about the highways ministry purchases, too. A poor set of processes meant the taxpayers weren't well-served during a period of rising land purchases. The auditor made a series of recommendations on how the problems she identified can be dealt with.

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Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor is shooting holes in the Highways Ministry’s process for buying and tracking equipment like carbines, drones and silencers.

In its annual audit report, Judy Ferguson’s office found that ministry officials used purchase cards — essentially credit cards — to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to support the expanded role of Highway Patrol over the 2018-19 year.

The ministry ended up with inappropriate items as a result, and Ferguson warned that the poor controls could leave it without the best value-for-money deal.

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Part of the problem centred on $54,000 spent on 26 carbines, plus related parts and accessories, as the unit shifted to rural crime-fighting as part of the Protection and Response Team announced in 2017. The ministry bought six more carbines in 2019-20.

Ferguson’s audit noted that it didn’t use any competitive purchasing methods to do so, and failed to obtain quotes from vendors. That does not comply with the law.

The ministry did post a request for proposals seeking carbines in 2018. But spokesman Doug Wakabayashi said the ministry didn’t acquire all of the carbines at once. If equipment is bought in lots and the purchase is worth less than $10,000, a purchase card can be used, he said.

The ministry had initially referred “questionable” purchases to Ferguson’s office after conducting a review, according to Wakabayashi. He said an employee involved was terminated.

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He said that employee was splitting transactions to get under a threshold for using purchase cards. The employee was not involved with buying the carbines themselves, but related equipment used for training. Much of it turned out to be unnecessary, such as silencers for firearms.

There was no sign of “financial impropriety,” according to Wakabayashi.

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Purchase cards are only supposed to be used for purchases totalling less than $10,000. But the audit report noted that a purchase valued at just over $10,000 for bulletproof vests was split into three separate transactions and put on three different purchase cards, apparently to skirt that requirement. It found a similar issue with machinery parts broken up into two payments.

The audit also questioned why the ministry needed some of the equipment it bought, with Ferguson’s office saying it did not document a business case to do so. That includes a drone, silencers and a high-power rifle scope.

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The ministry owns three nine-millimetre pistols, two fully automatic rifles, one AR-10 carbine and 12 silencers. It also owns a shotgun, even though the deputy minister of highways specifically directed staff not to buy one, according to the audit.

Ferguson’s office also found that the ministry “does not sufficiently track” that equipment and has not assigned staff responsibility for “confirming the existence and location of such items.”

The audit noted that the ministry keeps a spreadsheet, but that document contained “a number of inaccuracies.” It turned out that the drone, for instance, was not with the person who was identified as possessing it.

About $6,000 of communication equipment was also unaccounted for. It turned out that the ministry had never received it.

The audit said such lapses increase the risk that the ministry will be “held liable for misplaced or lost items used for inappropriate purposes.”

Wakabayashi said the ministry has conducted an internal review, implemented measures for inventory tracking and reminded employees not to split purchases to get them below the $10,000.

awhite-crummey@postmedia.com

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