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THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2007
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Audit: Finance unit bought expensive shirts

MONTGOMERY (AP) — After an audit cited his agency for improper no-bid clothing purchases, State Finance Director Jim Main has ordered division heads not to buy any shirts or other apparel without his direct approval.

Main's memo came after a recent audit by state Examiners of Public Accounts found the state Finance Department did not follow the state's bid law when it bought almost $40,000 worth of clothes, including what the audit called an "expensive brand" of shirts at $40 each, the Press-Register reported.

"In our opinion, and consistent with the opinions of the attorney general, the purchase of the apparel for employees was neither necessary nor reasonable," the audit report said.

Main's memo said if apparel purchases are approved in the future, clothing is not to be bought "unless you have complied with the state competitive bid laws."

The audit report said the Finance Department spent $39,145 on shirts with department logos, and for other embroidered apparel during the three fiscal years reviewed in the report.

The department's general counsel, Richard Cater, said employees in the service division work in buildings throughout the state government complex, and the apparel allows them to be identified by Capitol Police and by employees in those buildings.

The department purchased $10,602 in clothing for employees during the 2003-04 fiscal year; $17,882 in 2004-05; and $10,661 in 2005-06, according to the report.

"These purchases were made from individual funds within divisions and were not competitively bid," the report states.

"You can find fault with anything anybody does," Cater said. "As a Monday morning quarterback, it is easy to find fault with another person's decisions."

Deputy Chief Examiner Emmett White told the Press-Register that even if the items were purchased separately, they still fall under the bid law if the total cost surpassed $7,500 in a year for the entire department.

"When they exceeded $7,500 a year, they should have started bidding then, if not before," White said.

The service division has 117 employees working in mail and supply, motor pool, Capitol complex, and services, according to state personnel officials.

The examiners' report notes the shirts "were an expensive brand that cost $40 each."

More inexpensive shirts could have been purchased if the department was "trying to stretch the value of your dollar," chief examiner Ronald Jones told the Press-Register. "The quality of the merchandise they were getting was better than the low end."

Cater said he's sure the department could have found less expensive shirts.

"Generally, if you don't pay as much for them they don't hold up as long and may not be something you want a state employee running around in," Cater said.

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Information from: Press-Register, www.al.com/mobileregister

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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