Posted: May 24, 2012 11:43 PM
Updated: May 25, 2012 9:59 AM
AUSTIN - Guns, laptop computers, video cameras and other equipment totaling more than $60 million is missing. The Texas government lost hundreds of costly, confidential and potentially dangerous items.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS obtained two years of data from the state comptroller. It shows all missing items from state agencies, from fax machines to firearms. Nine different agencies lost firearms. State employees also lost things like an iPad, a computer and a wheelchair.
The list of agencies responsible includes the governor's office, the Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the Attorney General's Office. In all, the losses total more than $60,000,000.
State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. from Brownsville says the numbers are troubling.
"Even though it represents .01 percent of the budget, it's still a considerable amount of money, and we should be better stewards of state property and making sure that the taxpayer is protected," says Lucio.
The lost money is nearly twice the entire city budget for Harlingen and Mission, about six times that of Donna, Mercedes, San Juan or San Benito and nearly 10 years worth of budgets for Alamo or La Feria. But the money isn't the only troubling thing about the loses.
"The thing that concerns me, and it should concern everyone, is that some of these computers, for example, have a lot of information in them. It could have your name, address, telephone number," explains Lucio.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS took our concerns about public safety and financial responsibility to Austin. Tom Smith is the Texas Director of Public Citizen, a watchdog group in the state capitol. Our information surprised him.
"I was shocked. Look at all these missing items. There's 314 pages of missing items that the state had to scrape and tax people to buy," he says.
State Comptroller Susan Combs is in charge of state finances. CHANNEL 5 NEWS went to her office, but she was out of town. The director of communications told us no one was available to talk with us and issued this statement:
State agencies report information about missing or stolen property to the State Property Accounting (SPA) system which is administered by the Comptroller's Office. The Comptroller's Office maintains the database for record-keeping and reporting purposes. Each individual state agency is responsible for the custody and care of property in the agency's possession. Questions about lost property should be directed to the appropriate state agency.
Smith says the state comptroller shares the blame with the heads of all the agencies who lost state property. Lucio says he plans to look into the lost or stolen property and discuss it during the next legislative session.