Accounting for homeland security fund in Apache County

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PHOENIX - It is taxpayer money that is supposed to keep you safe. But is the money being used the right way?

Since Hurricane Katrina there are more audits being conducted to see if homeland security money is being spent the right way in cities and counties across the country. A recent audit in Apache County caught our attention, so we wanted to find out if federal grant money was being misused.

Fires and floods, massive disasters and crimes against the country are the worst case scenarios that the Department of Homeland Security needs to be ready for.

And to be ready, counties and cities across the U.S. need the right equipment and training.

"If and when the need arises we have resources available," said Harry Cordova with the Department of Homeland Security.

They're supposed to have resources, but Apache County, which covers 11,000 square miles is currently fighting for more federal grant money.

But a recent federal and state audit called in to question how the county is using the money and resources they already have.

The audit obtained by 3 On Your Side said several utility trailers and 20 digital cameras bought with your tax dollars were not accounted for.

Three laptops and two expensive generators were not hooked up.

"To the best of my knowledge none of our equipment has been misplaced or mishandled," said Civil Affairs Sergeant Richard Guinn.

3 On Your Side went to St. Johns to ask about this audit.

First we asked about those digital cameras that were bought for the sheriff's department.

"The deputies weren't taking those home were they?" Sgt Guinn said. "Absolutely not."

Actually Sgt Guinn said they couldn't use the cameras because they were faulty, all 20 of them.

3 On Your Side found them sitting stacked in a box.

3 On Your Side reviewed the rest of the audit with Harry Cordova the Director of Emergency Management.

What about those generators which cost upwards of $50,000 and would be used as backup power to county buildings in case of emergency?

"It was in place it just wasn't hooked up," Cordova said.

For more than a year the generator wasn't hooked up, but Cordova said it's because they have only one electrician for the entire county.

Professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management John O'Connell has been in the business of risk management for 35 years. He said now more than ever it is crucial to trace the money.

"They all should be reviewed, they all should be audited," he said.

O'Connell points to the catastrophe that was Katrina. Hundreds of millions of dollars were wasted on equipment that was mismanaged and misused, but he said from that disaster we have learned.

While Apache County is not a likely target of a terrorist attack, they do have two power plants and a rail line and they need to be able to expect the unexpected.

And while you might be surprised at what 3 On Your Side found, Cordova maintains, Apache County is prepared.

"We have a tracking process, we have an overall plan," he said.

Had Apache County not been able to account for this equipment, they would have had to cut a check back to the state. As of now, there is still one generator that needs to be hooked up.

Apache County received, for 2007 and 2008, $217,052 in grant money.