State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an audit of the Jackson County Community Backed Anti-Crime Tax (COMBAT) Fund, which uses sales tax revenue to fight substance abuse and drug-related crime. The audit found COMBAT revenue allocations had not been updated in 25 years and there is insufficient monitoring of spending to ensure appropriate uses of COMBAT funds.
"The COMBAT Fund was created to help protect the safety of the citizens of Jackson County, and it's vital that these resources be managed effectively and appropriately," Auditor Galloway said. "My audit has found several areas for improvement, and I urge county officials to take action on the recommendations in this report."
The audit found the percentages of COMBAT estimated revenues allocated to various agencies have not been updated since 1995. The audit said that to ensure COMBAT money is used efficiently and anti-crime programs are adequately funded, periodic reviews and updates to the allocation percentages should be performed and entities should be appropriated the full amount of their allocation.
The process for funding agencies providing treatment, prevention and anti-violence services needs improvement, as does the monitoring of the contracts with these agencies. Auditors reviewed a selection of payments issued to contracted agencies from 2016 to 2018 and found 41% did not provide supporting documentation timely and 36% exceeded the monthly payment allowed.
In addition, the audit found concerns with specific spending of COMBAT funds. This included $4,800 used towards a vehicle purchase and a hotel invoice totaling nearly $600; both lacked documentation of how the expenditures related to COMBAT programs. The county also does not have documentation to support how vehicle allowance amounts paid from the COMBAT Fund are reasonable and necessary.
The audit also reviewed employee salaries paid by COMBAT funds. Approximately 150 employees' salaries totaling more than $5 million a year were paid completely through the fund. The majority of these employees worked in the court, jail or prosecuting attorney's office. An additional 100 employees had some portion of their salary paid with COMBAT funds, totaling $1.9 million in 2017 and $2.5 million in 2018. Some of those allocations were made for employees in other county departments. The county could not provide documentation to support how these salary allocations were determined making it difficult to determine if all allocations were an appropriate use of COMBAT funds.
Agencies that receive COMBAT allocations include the Kansas City Police Department, the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, the Jackson County Drug Task Force and the Jackson County Circuit Court, as well as some not-for-profit organizations. Currently, the Prosecuting Attorney is responsible for the administration of the COMBAT tax and COMBAT Commission, which is made up of members of the public appointed by the County Executive. The COMBAT Commission makes recommendations to the County Legislature on uses of the fund, which receives its revenue from the countywide sales tax first approved by Jackson County voters in 1989.
The performance audit is part of an independent review of county government finances being done by the State Auditor's Office at the request of the Jackson County Legislature. Additional reports, including reports on procurement and budgeting, are expected to be released later this year.
The complete audit of the COMBAT Fund can be found here.