By Robert Kittle
A new audit of the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services says the agency has not followed state law, and got $3.8 million to hire more agents but has not increased its staff.
The audit says part of that money has been used to increase the agency's cash reserve.
The audit was done by the state Legislative Audit Council. It says, "SCDPPS has not complied with state law and agency policy in the areas of human resources, procurement, and finance."
PPP got an additional $3.8 million in fiscal years 2010-11 and 2011-12 so it could hire more parole agents and lower the heavy caseloads of those already on the job. But the audit says the agency has not increased the size of its staff.
Agency spokesman Pete O'Boyle says there's a good reason for that. "We hired 92 people, in total, including some support staff, but 86 people ended up leaving over that same time period," he says. A change in the state retirement system made it beneficial for a lot of employees to retire, while other people left because of low pay and heavy caseloads, he says.
So it wasn't that the agency didn't use the money for its intended purpose, he says. It's just that the agency hasn't been able to hire people fast enough to replace those who've left and increase the overall number of agents. It takes about six months for a new hire to go through the Criminal Justice Academy and the agency's own training before being put in the field, O'Boyle says.
The audit also found that the agency had not been keeping up with one of its bank accounts, so it didn't now know about a $325,000 fraud for two years. O'Boyle says action was taken against the person responsible and the agency has changed its procedures to keep that from happening again.
The audit report also says some employees are commuting more than 200 miles a day in state-owned vehicles, so taxpayers are paying for their commutes.
O'Boyle says, "Somebody gets promoted to a senior-level job and they happen to live in another city, the agency simply can't move them like a private corporation might do, from say Spartanburg or Florence or wherever they happen to live, to Columbia for a new job. They have spouses who work. Their kids are in schools there. So it's not fair, really, to ask them to put all those miles on a personal car. So yes, they do commute. The agency gets the advantage of having those experienced, qualified, senior-level people who are willing, frankly, to commute those distances to do those jobs."
Another problem the audit found was that the agency used more than $20,000 of money that belongs to the offenders the agency supervises to help offset that fraud loss. The agency says it has located those offenders and will return the money.
The audit also found that PPP went around state surplus property rules and violated the state procurement code by loaning, at no cost, 20 agency computers to a church. O'Boyle says the agency has now contacted the church and plans to go pick up those computers in a couple of weeks.
PPP is part of Gov. Nikki Haley's cabinet. She says all of the recommendations made in the audit will be put in place. She also says that, because the agency has not been able to use the additional money it's already received to increase the size of its staff, she'll withdraw her support for it to get an increase of $1.4 million in next year's budget.
You can read the entire audit report at: http://lac.sc.gov/LAC_Reports/2013/Pages/PPP.aspx