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Kiamichi audit turns up possible irregularities

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The award of contracts to employees of the Kiamichi Technology Center at Poteau has been questioned in a state audit released Tuesday.

Jeff McMahan, state auditor and inspector, said the special audit was requested by the attorney general and began last fall. He said a copy is being forwarded to District Attorney Rob Wallace in Poteau.

Wallace said he could not comment until he evaluated the audit, which cited several apparent violations of policies at the technology center.

The Associated Press tried unsuccessfully Tuesday afternoon to contact Joe Smith, director of the Kiamichi center, for comment.

The audit found that three companies owned by employees of the school received payments for construction and refrigeration work at the school during 2001 and 2002. The largest contract was for $16,838. State law requires three bids on contracts over $25,000.

The report found one instance of apparent ``split purchasing'' for the painting of buildings at the center, circumventing the $25,000 limitation on issuing purchase orders without competitive bidding.

Another audit finding was that the director ``appeared to be filing a false statement'' by signing purchase request forms that certify that no employee of the center ``will benefit monetarily or otherwise from this transaction.''

McMahan said the report contains many questionable dealings, such as performing private business during school work hours and using student labor and the services of an instructor for heating and air work on a new home for an assistant director.

The audit found no written contract for the project on the assistant director's home and said the official did not follow board policy of paying 20 percent of the commercial rate for the work.

``Instead, the assistant director informed our office he bought a steak dinner for everyone and had a cookout at the school,'' the audit said.

The official estimated the cookout cost about $300, according to the audit.

McMahan said his office had been bombarded with reports of misuse of public funds since he took office in January.

``During hard economic times, the last thing taxpayers want to see is somebody violating the public trust by misusing tax dollars,'' he said.
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