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Purchasing: West Virginia State Police must stop dragging their feet

West Virginia taxpayers have had more than their share of reasons to believe the folks in Charleston — particularly the bureaucrats — are not always good stewards of their money. Attempts have been made over the years to modernize and standardize purchasing procedures so the public has a clear view of what has been put in place to safeguard their money, with varying degrees of success.

A lot of credit for the successes goes to the Legislative Auditor’s Office for working to bring all departments into compliance with proper purchasing guidelines. At least one has resisted, however, despite the office’s effort to give them more time by granting an exemption to Purchasing Division policies more than two years ago.

West Virginia State Police still has not gotten its act together.

“The State Police informed (the Legislative Auditor’s Performance Evaluation and Research Division) that it does not have written purchasing policies and procedures,” an audit report given this week said. “The State Police’s inconsistency in its response is concerning because it demonstrates a lack of commitment to any purchasing standard, which is crucial to the proper use of taxpayer funds.”

Lawmakers must begin to wonder, what is the hold up? Or, what are State Police trying to hide?

State Police Maj. Reginald Patterson claims the department is taking the matter seriously and (still) working on purchasing procedures.

“We’ve looked at the different documentation and we have to agree with the fact that we should have had a clearer guideline,” he said. “We are in the process of establishing what that is.”

It is cold comfort to hear from State Police that “a dollar is not spent without one of the staff members knowing about it.” Any private business office manager could tell them such a system amounts to no system at all. Now that they have been called out, the response sounds much like a teenager appeasing parents by agreeing with them while still having no intention of doing what has been asked over and over.

Let us hope that is not the case. If State Police continue to drag their feet, however, lawmakers should look for enforcement measures that have a little more teeth than the Legislative Auditor’s Office continuing to recommend they make purchasing procedures and monitoring a priority.

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