- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — A prison audit found that officials apparently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on entertainment with no evidence in some cases that the contracted groups ever performed.

Invoices for the entertainers and technicians also were prepared by officials in the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services in amounts just below the level that would have required competitive bidding for the work, the audit found.

“Bidding requirements appear to have been circumvented and excessive payments were made,” said Bruce A. Myers of the Office of Legislative Audits in a Feb. 23 letter to the Joint Audit Committee, a copy of which was obtained by the Baltimore Sun.

State auditors said former Commissioner LaMont W. Flanagan approved payments worth nearly $45,000 to sound technicians and a photographer who produced fewer than 100 photos. The former commissioner also approved $145,000 over a two-year period for picnics and other employee events, the auditors reported.

Mr. Flanagan, who resigned in 2003 for unrelated reasons, was not named in the audit, which covered April 2001 to June 2004.

Mary Ann Saar, secretary of the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which oversees the division, said “corrective action has been or will be implemented for all audit findings and recommendations.”

Mr. Flanagan was replaced by William J. Smith and Miss Saar was appointed corrections secretary in 2003. Mr. Smith said new procedures are now in place that prohibit staff from preparing invoices for vendors and require the completion of services before payment.

He said his staff would seek advice from the attorney general’s office regarding some of the questionable payments.

Auditors found the division spent about $145,000 on employee and volunteer appreciation events from 2002 to 2004, including $35,000 on a volunteer banquet for 700 people that included $5,500 in souvenirs and gifts. Most of the expenditures were recorded as “miscellaneous contractual services,” auditors said.

Auditors found the division spent nearly $68,000 on comedians and musical groups in fiscal 2003 with invoices prepared not by the entertainers but by division staff. Of the 79 invoices submitted, 49 were for $999 each, just below the $1,000 limit that would have triggered a competitive bidding process, auditors said.

Payments for entertainment services worth about $11,000 were made to individuals before the services were rendered and no evidence was found that the services were provided, the audit said.

Two persons also were paid $33,600 to act as sound technicians during events without bidding for the work or signing a contract, auditors found.

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