Comptroller questions TBI spending over budget, using reserves

Press release from state Comptroller’s Office:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released a special report examining several aspects of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s fiscal operations, including an analysis of TBI’s budget, the procurement of its Pilatus airplane, staffing, and grants and contracts.

The special report was initiated after Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson) called for an examination of TBI’s budgeting and accounting practices. The General Assembly included language within the 2017 Appropriations Act requiring the review to be complete by January 31, 2018.

The Comptroller’s Office found TBI’s expenditures have exceeded its budgeted estimates since 2014, and TBI has relied on its various reserve funds for its continued operations. These accounts have been greatly diminished as TBI has used these funds. The Comptroller’s Office concluded that TBI and the Department of Finance and Administration should commit to improve communication during the budget process.

 The review also includes an examination of the procurement of TBI’s Pilatus Airplane. The Comptroller’s Office found that, although policies were followed, the procurement could have been more cost-effective.

Additionally, the Comptroller’s Office researched the history of TBI and performed an analysis of TBI’s independence. TBI is an operationally independent cabinet-level agency that does not clearly belong to a single branch of government. TBI’s unique role in state government requires a balance between independence and accountability.

Comptroller Justin P. Wilson will present the results of the TBI Special Report to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee on January 16, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.

The Comptroller’s Office has also released TBI’s performance audit report which found TBI’s policies surrounding the use of its aircraft were not sufficient, a failure to collect all sex offender registration fees, and the Drug Offender Registry was not always accurate or up to date.

The Comptroller’s Office will present the TBI performance audit to the Judiciary and Government Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations on January 25, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.

To view the TBI Special Report online, click here.

To view the TBI Performance Audit Report online, click here.

Further, from The Tennessean:

During a meeting of the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, state Comptroller Justin Wilson told lawmakers the makeshift system was “a real problem.” The comptroller’s report pointed out that two of TBI’s reserve funds had been overdrawn in recent years.

… TBI leaders cited in the report said they didn’t ask for extra funding in budget requests because they “did not expect such requests would be approved through the Governor’s budget process.”

Lawmakers were critical of that strategy during a hearing Tuesday, although they were careful to couch negative comments with praise for TBI’s law enforcement work.

“That is about as poor a financial management process as you can do,” said state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, who called for the examination of TBI’s budget and accounting in 2017, after the agency made a special request for $8 million to buy a plane.

“It’s clandestine at the minimum, and I think we can do a whole lot more for TBI if we know exactly what we need to be doing for TBI.”

Wilson said better communication between TBI and the state would be necessary for things to improve.

“TBI needs to say what they need and what happens if they don’t get the money,” Wilson said.

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