A Fairfax County auditor is recommending security and procedural changes for the county’s surplus property warehouse after a school system employee was charged with stealing computers from the facility.
The county government and Fairfax County Public Schools share a 750,000-square-foot warehouse space in Springfield to store office furniture, computers, cell phones, televisions, vehicles and other equipment.
In addition to storing and redistributing supplies among county agencies and schools, staff at the warehouse operations — which are separately managed even though they share a roof — are responsible for selling or recycling items that the county no longer needs. The sale and disposal of surplus goods raised about $4 million in fiscal 2013.
In January, the manager of the school system’s side of the warehouse, Alexandria resident Craig Soderberg, resigned and was charged with two counts of embezzlement for allegedly stealing computers from the warehouse. Police said that they found more than 1,200 laptops in his home.
Following the incident, the office of the auditor to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, examined security procedures and the internal controls used to track warehouse inventory.
“We found that neither the schools nor the county had adequate internal controls,” said Jessica Tucker, acting auditor to the board.
The county warehouse employees use Excel spreadsheets to track inventory in the warehouse, but there is no password protection or procedural limitation on which employees can access the spreadsheets, according to the draft March audit report.
The report recommends that the Fairfax County Department of Purchasing and Supply Management, which runs the county side of the warehouse, use an inventory tracking system that offers more control of user access and provides for an audit function.
In the Soderberg case, other employees alerted authorities to the possible theft.
There is also very little physical security used to safeguard items that would be the most tempting to thieves, like cell phones and computers. For example, the report states that surplus cell phones are currently stored in an employee’s cubicle.
Because of the theft, the school system’s procurement office was already working on improving its control procedures and researching improvements to physical security, such as installing security cameras and cages for the areas where computers and other items at high risk of theft are stored.
On the county side, however, the Facilities Management Department, which is responsible for building maintenance, still has not addressed recommendations made by a private security consultant the county hired in 2008, according to the report.
These include: installing card readers at doors leading to restricted areas, installing security cameras, and installing alarms on emergency exit doors to restrict them to exit only.
Tucker said that employees she spoke with indicated cost was a factor in why they had not made recommended upgrades, even though she believes they are relatively low-cost items.
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesvile), chairman of the Board of Supervisors Audit Committee, said he will ask the full board to endorse the recommendations and also state that there will be a follow-up audit in six months.
“This is obviously very serious,” Foust said.
While the county can’t implement the recommendations on the school side, the board will pass the recommendations on to its counterparts on the county school board.