State pays $2.45 million to wrong agency over 15 years | Arkansas Blog

State pays $2.45 million to wrong agency over 15 years

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WE SCREWED UP: Richard Weiss.
  • 'WE SCREWED UP': Richard Weiss.
The amount, said Arkansas Finance Director Richard Weiss, was "chump change" to two large state agencies over a 15-year span, but, no doubt about it, "We screwed up."

Over 15 years, DFA sent a total of $2.45 million to the state Game and Fish Commission that was supposed to go to the state Highway and Transportation Department (on average not much more than $150,000 annually to one multi-million-dollar agency rather than another.)

The error was discovered this spring when DFA installed a new computer accounting system for the sales and use tax portion of the accounting operation that collects and disburses billions annual in state money. Fifteen years ago, said Weiss, a coding error that guided the "roomful" of clerks who handled sales tax income resulted in money for highways being coded in three cases for Game and Fish: 1) money collected for "title purposes only," a mistake that amounted to $2.3 million over 15 years; 2) taxicab registration, which amounted to $142,000, and 3) a registration fee for boat dealers, which amounted to $10,200.

When the error was discovered, Weiss said, "We tried to figure out how to correct it without putting a squeeze on the agencies."

After discussion with both agencies, all agreed to a plan to repay the money to the Highway Department in monthly payments beginning in July. Weiss, who I reached after hours Friday evening, said he didn't know the precise amount of the monthly payments or time period, but said the payback would likely take as long, 15 years, as the error existed.

He said state law gave DFA "broad authority" to make transfers to correct errors, but he also added that the change would be subject to review in the auditing process by the legislature.

Said Weiss: "We screwed up. We got a good fix worked out with both parties and we'll just keep on going."

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