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MARCS Performance Audit Recommends Further Study of Impact of Fee Changes, Formal Policy for Collecting Delinquent Accounts
For Immediate Release
COLUMBUS – The costs of the statewide radio and data network used by emergency responders, public safety groups and others likely will outpace the funds currently collected to run it, absent a change in fee structure or other legislative intervention, according to a report released Thursday by the Auditor of State’s Office.
Even with changes to the way the Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS) is funded, the administrators of the network lack insight into the financial impact of potential new users in coming years.
“This is an important communications network that police, firefighters, and other public servants rely on,” said Auditor of State Keith Faber. “It’s imperative for the Ohio Department of Administrative Services to get a better handle on the future costs of maintaining this system.”
The conclusions were included in a new report from the Auditor of State’s Ohio Performance Team (OPT), which reviews the operations of government agencies and programs and offers recommendations to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.
The Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) asked OPT to conduct a performance audit of MARCS to gauge the system’s fiscal health. About 2,200 users subscribe to MARCS, and the network continues to experience steady growth.
Financial modeling conducted by OPT indicated that MARCS would be unable to meets its financial obligations within the next five years without a change in its fee structure or action by the state legislature.
According to OPT, “MARCS is a critical government service that provides emergency communications to organizations throughout the state and cannot be allowed to go offline… To prevent the need for emergency funding measures from the state general revenue fund, DAS must work to secure the program’s financial stability now.”
Gov. Mike DeWine’s biennial budget proposal, under consideration by state lawmakers, would provide dedicated funding for MARCS and eliminate fees paid by members.
“MARCS administrators have indicated that the current system should remain viable for several years and can handle a large increase in user base over time,” auditors wrote. “However, due to the potential impact of providing MARCS services for free to all governmental users, MARCS administrators and the General Assembly should further consider the implications of a sudden increase in demand that may occur if the budget proposal is approved.”
Among other recommendations, OPT urged MARCS administrators to develop a formal policy to address delinquent account collections.
The system has not pursued payments from users who have failed to fully pay system fees – auditors determined nearly 22% of accounts, or about $1.2 million in uncollected revenues, were months past due. The total includes $301,650 in payments delinquent by more than 120 days from FirstEnergy Service Co. Auditors found about 400 users had fees that were past due by 60 or more days.
“If you are receiving a service, you should be paying your bills, and in a timely manner,” Auditor Faber said.
A copy the full performance audit is available online at (ohioauditor.gov/performance.html).
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Keith Faber, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies, and promotes transparency in government.
Contact: Marc Kovac