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Audit finds overspending, lack of controls with Florida prison industries

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(The Center Square) — An audit of the Florida Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises found a pattern of overspending and a lack of internal controls.

The audit also found that even when controls did exist, there was an environment where they could be bypassed.

The Florida Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, Inc., also known as PRIDE, is a non-profit organization that works with the Florida Department of Corrections to operate work programs inside state correctional facilities for inmates.

PRIDE’s mission is a joint effort between the Department of Corrections and vocational training programs to provide valuable activities to inmates that can lead to meaningful employment once they are released, with the outcome being to reduce recidivism.

Other goals include reducing inmate idleness, providing incentives for good behavior, and reducing the cost to the state government by operating enterprises using inmate labor.

The audit found that the organization did not have adequate controls over selecting the most competitively priced purchase orders and contracts and did not offer a valid reason to the Auditor General as to why. Records also needed to provide evidence that some expenses were approved and often deviated from established expense limits.

Between January 2021 to August 2023, the lack of adequate controls contributed to PRIDE overpaying a vendor by $449,884.

Furthermore, records failed to show the appropriateness of consulting, lobbying, and legal expenses that topped $854,900. The Auditor General noted that the excessive use of contracted lobbying services may have violated limits specified within PRIDE’s articles of incorporation.

The audit found that records did not evidence the reason for employee market pay adjustments, nor were periodic performance evaluations conducted – including of the organization’s president; and controls over contract approval and review need improvement.

The Auditor General recommended that PRIDE improve its controls for check authorization, as well as improving controls over the approval and initiation of wire transfers. Inventory controls were found inadequate and did not promote detection of potential theft and misuse of goods.

Former inmate worker recidivism calculations were found to be understated, inconsistent with the methodology used by the Department of Corrections, and appeared not to be compliant with state law.

PRIDE was also found to not always adhere to established policies and procedures for handling inmate worker complaints, and records did not evidence that these complaints were fairly, objectively, and appropriately handled.

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