Audit critical of Fire Department controls

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new report by the Jacksonville Council Auditor's Office looks at how the city's Fire and Rescue Department is managing its dollars and drugs. And some of the findings are troubling:

Inventory systems: in some cases nonexistent.

Narcotics logs: error ridden -- or just missing.

And "a complete lack of oversight" to ensure the city is being properly billed for ambulance transport services.

The routine audit looked specifically at whether JFRD's record keeping systems work. "It's part of a periodic effort monitor agencies that have revenues or handle [sensitive] inventories, something like narcotics," Council Auditor Kirk Sherman told First Coast News.

Not all the audit findings were problematic. "Overall," auditors found, "EMS transports were billed in an accurate and timely manner and payments were properly deposited." The primary target of the audit was the department's poor inventory processes. JFRD Chief of Rescue Ivan Mote says the findings, while not welcome, also weren't a surprise.

"We're probably 10 years behind," Mote said. "But with system we have in place, we have to tighten up with what we have."

The audit didn't suggest anything illegal had occurred, but noted the handwritten drug logs were sloppy, and "several months of logs were missing … making it impossible to determine if narcotics were misappropriated by any personnel."

"We when we have human beings keeping track, the math can be off," said Mote. "They can forget to document dosages and just the environment that we work in will leave room for error.

Auditors say a big part of the problem appears to be JFRD's antiquated systems. But they also criticized a lack of oversight, including allowing the person in charge of keeping inventory records access to supply rooms. The audit also found that some bills for ambulance services were being sent as much as a year after the rescue.

Firefighter union president Randy Wyse said it's the nature of any audit to find errors, and didn't think the audit was damning. "They're always going to find something, you know," he said.

But he agrees investment in the department is long overdue. In fact, the report points out that city auditors made the case for better inventory systems 15 years ago. "The first thing that jumps out to me is that it's been drawn to the attention of our city leaders since 1999 that there needs to be better tracking system," said Wyse, "and we still don't have it."

Mayoral Spokesperson David Decamp says the city is working with the IT departments of various city agencies, and that they will continue looking at the best way to allocate city resources.

But getting the systems up to snuff, Chief Mote said, is going to require the city investment. "Everything is a money thing," he said.


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