Audit Criticizes Local Fire Department Funding

A June 17 article summarizes the findings of a state audit on the Military Department, including a finding that 11 local jurisdictions should have been penalized for not meeting funding requirements under the Senator William H. Amoss Fire, Rescue, and Ambulance Fund:

The Maryland Military Department continued to dole out $5.2 million  to support fire services in 11 local jurisdictions even though they did meet  requirements for matching local funding, according to a state audit.

The 11 jurisdictions received a little more than half of the total  $10 million in “Amoss” funding for emergency services awarded annually to all 23  Maryland counties and Baltimore City. Auditors found that some of the funds were  deposited in brokerage accounts, rather than federally insured banks.

Per standard The audit found that the Department failed to penalize local jurisdictions that did not properly match the Amoss funding:

The Department did not withhold funding or otherwise penalize jurisdictions that did not meet certain minimum expenditure levels, as required by State law. Each year, the Department obtained financial information from each jurisdiction and determined whether it spent the minimum amount of local funds on fire protection for the preceding year. However, when the minimum spending requirements were not met, the Department did not withhold funding or penalize the jurisdictions, as specified in State law.

Our review disclosed that the Department did not withhold funding nor penalize the 11 jurisdictions that, based on expenditure data they reported, did not meet the funding requirements during fiscal year 2011. These jurisdictions received $5.2 million in Amoss funds during fiscal year 2011. Based on our calculations, these jurisdictions, at least, should have been penalized $585,000 for failing to meet the funding requirements. These funds would then have been available for reallocation to the compliant jurisdictions. Similar shortfalls were noted for fiscal year 2010 with no withholding or adjustments to the amount of Amoss funds provided to the jurisdictions.

The audit recommended that the Department enforce the local Amoss Fund expenditure requirements, both by recovering improper local disbursements and in the future withhold funding or penalize local jurisdictions that fail to comply with the expenditure requirements.  The audit also raised concerns over the misuse of a departmental credit card, lack of oversight of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association, failure to qualify for federal funding, and improper spending of Amoss Funding by local jurisdictions and fire departments.