- Associated Press - Thursday, October 29, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The Secretary of State’s Office under Jason Gant came up more than $43,000 short in its accounting at the end of 2014 and used federal grant funds for unpermitted purposes, according to a report from a South Dakota state auditor.

Auditor General Martin Guindon said in the report that his office found no explanation of the $43,300 difference between accounts and the Secretary of State’s Office reported receipts for permit and fee revenue. Current Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said the discrepancy has since been resolved.

“The concern was: are we missing money?” she said. “It’s state money, taxpayer money, so where is it and why is it missing?”

Other findings in the report include several missing iPad Mini devices out of 30 purchased and that about $12,000 of grant funds were used for oversight of a different program, which the auditor believes isn’t allowed.

Gant told The Associated Press that the report shows some mistakes that his office made with accounting procedures, errors he would have fixed had known about them prior to leaving office. Gant said he didn’t know this type of inquiry was an option.

“Had I known that, absolutely, I would have done it,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re going to make mistakes, and I’ve made my fair share, and we would have corrected those mistakes.”

The report said that the Secretary of State’s Office didn’t have “adequate internal control policies or procedures” related to two federal programs. Gant said he discussed the controls with auditors and said the office could have had more detailed procedures. He said the $12,000 in grant funds was simply a coding error.

He also said the iPad devices were among roughly 100 tablets the office bought when it was testing a military voting system. He said the devices didn’t have a proper system to track them.

Speaking about management and accountability, Gant, who’s now a business consultant, said he put more stringent procedures in place for county reimbursement from Help America Vote Act funds.

The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee is scheduled to discuss the report Friday, and Gant said he has gotten permission to testify before the panel.

Krebs said she requested the report because of complaints from citizens who said the office’s operations were slow and unresponsive.

“What we walked into just shows how accountability to our taxpayers is so important and that these items aren’t insignificant to the taxpayer,” Krebs said. “You’re dealing with money that’s theirs.”

She said she also was concerned after taking office in January when a staff member noticed that a century-old original state flag was missing from its stand.

Attorney General Marty Jackley said Wednesday that the flag had been recovered from a former employee and criminal charges are expected. The flag was hanging up in Krebs’ office Thursday afternoon.

Gant said the flag was taken down during his tenure because it was beginning to rip at a corner. He said it was stored in a closet while a display was being put together and someone took it from the closet.

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