- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

The Ehrlich administration has initiated a program to make state agencies more accountable for government assets, after a recent audit showed that about $9.8 million worth of property had been lost or stolen during the Glendening administration.

The program is set to start this week when the Maryland Department of General Services sends letters to state agency officials telling them to appoint somebody to catalog and monitor assets in their agencies.

“If the [Ehrlich] administration had not been elected, this would be status quo,” General Services spokeswoman Anne Hubbard said yesterday. “It is not so much that the things have just walked out of the door; it is just that poor inventory-control methods were used.”

To prove that officials for former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, mismanaged assets, Miss Hubbard said the audit has identification numbers for but cannot locate five vehicles — a 1987 Pontiac, a 1988 Dodge, a 1988 Plymouth, a 1979 Chevy truck and a 1985 Chevy truck.

“They were probably auctioned or disposed of,” she said. “But the paperwork was never there to verify what happened to them, so you ended up having to write off this stuff.”

Miss Hubbard also said record-keeping in the previous administration had been so bad that as many as 90 computer monitors worth nearly $11,000 sat in storage for almost a year because nobody knew they were there.

The audit began when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, took office in January and extends back to 1996, said state officials.

It is the first state audit in recent memory and includes information about property in the Governor’s Mansion.

State officials said $4.31 million in merchandise is missing from fiscal 2001, $2.79 million from last year and $2.69 million from this year.

Gene Lynch and Peta N. Richkus, General Services secretaries in the Glendening administration, were responsible for the department during the bulk of the accounting errors, according to state officials. Miss Richkus replaced Mr. Lynch, who was promoted to deputy chief of staff during the governor’s second term. They did not return phone messages left at their homes. Mr. Glendening could not be reached for comment.

The letters to be sent to state agencies this week await the signature of Boyd K. Rutherford, secretary of the Department of General Services, who was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment. The department is responsible for overseeing and managing state property.

Mr. Rutherford previously has vowed to rewrite the state’s inventory policy to avoid more problems.

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