|Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway met with citizens in Marionville, just southwest of Springfield, to discuss the results of an audit of the Buck Prairie Special Road District, located in rural Lawrence County. The audit found the road district's financial condition suffered as a result of overspending, lax controls and little oversight by the board commissioners. In total, Auditor Galloway identified more than $65,000 in questionable and potentially inappropriate spending and payments. An additional $260,000 in payments were not properly documented.
"Special road districts provide a valuable service across Missouri, ensuring roads are safe and passable in the most rural parts of the state," Auditor Galloway said. "However, in this case, the board operated informally, and with little oversight, which created opportunities for errors and misuse of funds. Residents rightfully requested this audit, and my team has identified concerns, and made recommendations to help develop procedures to prevent future losses."
Employees of the road district were allowed to make personal purchases with district charge accounts, operating on a honor system to reimburse the district, and thereby avoiding paying sales tax. In one example, an employee used district funds to purchase tires for his personal vehicle and only reimbursed the district after being questioned about the purchase by local law enforcement officers. In other cases, the district paid employees for repairs or expenses, but did not require or keep any documentation to provide an explanation for the expense. For example, the district reimbursed an employee for airline tickets to Florida without requiring proof of the cost of the tickets or an explanation of how the expense related to the operation of the district.
The board did not solicit bids for major purchases, including payments for rock and dirt hauling services, with no bidding process and no explanation as to why the district-owned dump trucks were not used instead of employees' personal vehicles. More than $20,000 worth of hauling services were purchased from and paid to the board foreman and his business, along with $5,000 worth of services paid directly to the wife of a commissioner, with a check signed by that commissioner, raising concerns about conflicts of interest in payments.
Residents of the district petitioned the Auditor's Office for review after raising concerns related to the road district's management and operations. The audit began last fall, after residents submitted the required signatures to complete the petition process and begin the audit. This is the first state audit for the district, which was created in 1902 to maintain rural roads near the city of Marionville, where the meeting was held. The complete audit report for the Buck Prairie Special Road District, which received an overall rating of "poor," can be found online here.