HIGHLAND — A state audit of the Lone Peak Fire Department is recommending more oversight from the agency's top brass to set a better "tone" throughout the department, and discipline and employees' use of department credit cards can be improved.
The audit was launched based on "numerous allegations of impropriety" from the public, according to state officials. The Office of the State Auditor reviewed records from the fire department from July 2013 through March 2017, including all credit card purchases.
The fire department is a part of the Lone Peak Public Safety District that includes Alpine, Highland and Cedar Hills.
According to the audit, there is "inadequate internal control over credit cards." The investigation found that many purchases made with department credit cards lacked proper documentation and sometimes evidence that there was sufficient approval for purchases.
In 35 documented cases, "credit cards were used by someone other than the cardholder," according to the report. In one case, a computer was purchased for work-related purposes. But the purchase was made by a person whose name wasn't on the card, and was delivered to a residence and not the fire department, the report states.
In some cases, company credit cards were used to buy gifts for retiring employees, increasing the risk for misappropriation of public funds, the report states.
Though all the purchases appeared to be work-related, they lacked proper documentation, the audit found.
In addition, "the district lacks policies related to dollar limits, controls over the number of cards issued, the types of purchases for which credit cards are to be used, the requirements for documenting purchases, the cardholder’s responsibility for safeguarding the card, and the process for independent review and approval of credit card purchases," according to the report.
In another example, the audit found at least seven cases of meals being purchased, but had no documentation who bought them.
The audit also found that the department was not keeping proper records regarding the purchase and sale of vehicles. In at least one case, a surplus vehicle was listed for sale on KSL.com rather than being put up for bid at a public auction, the report states.
Another area that needs improvement is disciplining employees, according to the audit. The report found that the department had investigated issues "with ethical implications" involving employees. In several cases, disciplinary action was taken.
"However, we are concerned that the discipline may be perceived as having been too lenient. In one case, an employee was demoted for misusing funds from the employee association but was given a significant promotion a short time later," the audit states.
"This type of environment can lead some employees to believe the 'rules don’t matter,' which might result in employees ignoring the rules or practicing unethical behavior," according to the audit.
The audit recommended that new policies and procedures be implemented, periodic reviews be conducted, and a code of ethics be adopted and enforced.
Sheldon Wimmer, chairman of the Lone Peak Safety District Board, thanked the state for the report in a letter to the Office of the State Auditor.
"We have reviewed the draft report and have determined to follow all of the recommendations outlined in the report. Implementation has already begun," Wimmer wrote.