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Too Trusting?

Officials should develop guidelines

Perhaps West Virginia State Police officials should reflect that what the Legislature has granted, the Legislature can take away.

Most state agencies are required to comply with Purchasing Division guidelines when they buy goods or services on their own. The rules are meant both to standardize state government accounting processes and avoid waste and fraud.

But in 2017, lawmakers were persuaded that it would be best not to require the State Police to follow those rules. So an exemption from them was written into the statute books.

It was expected State Police officials would develop their own guidelines for purchasing.

They have not done so, lawmakers were told this week by the Legislative Auditor’s Performance Evaluation and Research Division. A report commented that, “The State Police informed PERD that it does not have written purchasing policies and procedures.” PERD officials added that such rules are “crucial to the proper use of taxpayer funds.”

Indeed they are. What was the last arm of state government to admit it did not have adequate financial safeguards in place? The West Virginia Supreme Court, and we all know how that ended — with one justice convicted of misusing taxpayers’ money, another pleading guilty to the charge and a third resigning to avoid impeachment proceedings.

To their credit, the newly constituted high court has made fiscal responsibility, including written procedures and policies, a top priority. State Police officials should take their cue from the justices.

State Police officials insist they monitor spending closely. Fine. No doubt they resent it a bit when they are told they need tighter policies and controls. They are the state’s lead law enforcement agency, after all, and officials there may believe they are due some trust from those they serve.

Justices of the state Supreme Court probably had the same attitude. The new court has embraced added safeguards. State Police officials should do so, too — perhaps reminding themselves that the exemption legislators granted in 2017 can be taken away.