Auditor faults health district for missing equipment

EVERETT — The state Auditor’s Office says the Snohomish Health District can do a better job tracking computers, digital cameras and other expensive equipment loaned out to employees.

State Auditor Troy Kelley’s staff was unable to find a third of the items in the health district’s June 2013 physical inventory.

“Obviously we take their recommendations seriously and are working to address their concerns,” said the district’s communications manager, Kristin Kinnamon.

The state notified the district of the findings in a Sept. 25 management letter, a copy of which was provided to The Herald under state public records laws. A management letter is less serious than an audit finding, which the state auditor posts regularly on its website.

The recent review looked at how the health district tracks and safeguards more than $1 million worth of small but valuable items. In accounting speak, these objects are referred to as “small and attractive assets” because they’re prone to being lost or stolen.

State auditors concluded that 30 percent of the items in the district’s inventory — about 330 in all, valued at $316,000 — could not be located.

The district had assigned one digital camera to an employee who left five years earlier, auditors said. An equipment inventory maintained by the district didn’t include dollar amounts for many sensitive items, such as computers and breast pumps. More than 400 pieces of equipment were not assigned to a specific person, leaving the district unable to figure out who is responsible in cases of loss.

State auditors advised the district to investigate missing equipment and to educate staff on inventory policies. Other recommendations: list the value of all items and purge the names of people who no longer work at the district from lists of those responsible for equipment.

Kinnamon noted that the management letter was based on a small sampling of 20 items, and multiplied to gauge the state of the entire inventory. Of the seven items state auditors couldn’t find, the district soon determined what had happened to five of them. The district failed to turn up a thermometer, valued at $97 when purchased new in 2006, and a desk, which is thought be in use somewhere in district offices.

“We believe that similarly, most items on our inventory can be properly documented,” Kinnamon said.

The audit also coincided with the departure of an employee who was responsible for tracking inventory, she said.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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