Wednesday, July 19, 2006
DHS updates status of those missing laptops
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Just two hours before they were to receive a public tongue-lashing on Capitol Hill for losing scores of laptop computers, a dozen flat-bottom boats and other gear during Hurricane Katrina recovery operations, Department of Homeland Security officials Wednesday said they had located many of the missing items.

But federal auditors remained skeptical, saying DHS needs to "touch" the
objects to assure they had been located, and not to rely on "paper" assurances.

As noted earlier, a GAO audit concluded that weak management practices at DHS had led to widespread misuse of purchase cards, which were supposed to give government employees a more efficient way to purchase goods and services.

Auditors cited a variety of apparent misuses of the cards. In many cases, DHS could not locate items purchased with the cards, suggesting the items were lost, stolen or misappropriated, the GAO said. Among the lost items were 107 of 200 laptop computers, 22 printers and 12 flat-bottom boats.

But shortly before a Senate hearing on the matter, DHS said it had found
some of the missing equipment.

"I do want to note that at 7:52 this morning, DHS informed the committee
that it had miraculously found the missing boats and some of the missing
computers," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman of the Senate Committee
on Homeland Security and Government Reform. DHS said it had located some 74 of
the 107 missing computers.

Auditors also voiced skepticism. "I am a little taken back, quite honestly," GAO Special Agent John Ryan told the committee, noting that earlier efforts to locate the items were fruitless. "I would ask them to touch the item and make sure they're really testing the serial number."
Posted By Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau: 7/19/2006 02:28:00 PM ET | Permalink
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