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Fairfax County Executive Ed Long is responding to the findings of a recent audit report that cited lax security controls at the county’s central warehouse.

Last month, the acting auditor to the Board of Supervisors, Jessica Tucker, recommended security upgrades and procedural changes at the warehouse, which is also used by the public school system. Her office reviewed protocols there after a theft in January.

The auditor’s report stated that the county did not have sufficient inventory tracking or physical security measures in place to prevent future theft. For example, she said inventory is tracked on unsecured Excel spreadsheets.

However, in an April 3 memorandum responding to the report, Long said that most of the materials stored at the warehouse have little or no value and said that the inventory tracking systems in place are sufficient for detecting theft.

Most of the materials stored in the Department of Purchasing and Supply Management’s section of the warehouse have little or no street value, according to Long’s memo. These include pallets of blank forms for county agencies, carpet tiles and art supplies and sports equipment for Park Authority programs.

There are also secure, caged areas where voting equipment and Health Department supplies are stored.

While the county does earn more than $3 million per year from selling and recycling surplus equipment, only a small percentage of those items ever go through the warehouse – primarily low-value items, Long said. Most surplus material is sold via online auction from the department getting rid of it.

The 800 items sold through the warehouse in fiscal 2013 generated about $46,000 in revenue, according to Long.

One concern cited in the audit report was critical of the storage of surplus cell phones and Blackberries at an employee’s cubicle. Long’s memo states that these items are boxed by lot for auction and stored in a locked file cabinet in a supervisor’s cubicle.

Surplus computers are valued only $5 to $15, Long’s memo said, and are stored on shrink-wrapped pallets until they are sold. He said the county’s e-waste contractor provides detailed manifests.

“Thus, an unauthorized diversion of the equipment by any party would be readily identified,” he wrote.

The Department of Facilities Management estimated that it will cost about $157,000 to implement the physical security measures recommended in the auditor’s report.

Long said county officials are reviewing whether the upgrades are warranted. However, he notes that a review by the U.S. Department of Justice Marshal’s Service last year found no security concerns. The county warehouse is a regional storage and distribution point for the “Strategic National Stockpile,” a repository of vaccines, medications and medical supplies to respond to bioterrorism or a pandemic.

The audit report also identified concerns with the portion of the warehouse operated by Fairfax County Public Schools. The theft uncovered in January was allegedly by a supervisor on the schools’ side of the warehouse.

FCPS was already working on improvements to its physical security and internal controls prior to the audit report, in response to the theft.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com