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Full Excerpt: Lost Items at Los Alamos

I soon contacted a BUS-6 manager named Leroy Padilla, a congenial gentleman who had deep knowledge of lab procurement and control policies. Interested in my project, he said he’d forward to me his division’s Annual Lost and Stolen Reports for 1999, 2000, and 2001. “The reports will show hundreds of items that had been lost or stolen,” Padilla said. That meant that the Business Operations Division, which was responsible for control of these items, had no idea where any of the hundreds of items were.

“We do annual audits,” Padilla said, “but we could never find any of these items.”

Padilla’s reports revealed that government property totaling nearly three million dollars in U.S. taxpayers’ money was either lost or stolen between 1999 and 2001. Padilla forwarded another report to me, illustrating that during the first quarter of 2002 nearly $300,000 in government property was either lost or stolen. The 1999-2001 reports included notation of more than 700 pieces of lost or stolen property. Of these 700-plus pieces of property, sixty-six items were listed as stolen, amounting to $148,000 of the nearly three million dollars in total property value. The remaining missing articles were classified as lost and never accounted for.

Among the items, the lab had allegedly “lost” were an industrial water tank, a one-ton magnet-lifting unit, research oscillators, trailer vans, hundreds of computers and computer workstations alike. I couldn’t quite hide an under the breath laugh, Gee honey, I misplaced the one-ton magnet-lifting unit along with our 400 computers...Did you see them lying around somewhere?

The growing problem, however, was no laughing matter. My review also showed that, each year, approximately 90 percent of the lost items was reported in January, about 5 percent in June, and the remaining 5 percent scattered throughout the year. I e-mailed Padilla and asked him his theory regarding this phenomenon. Padilla responded, “Christmas.”

I passed this information and my exchange with Padilla to Falcon, who wasn’t at all surprised. “Padilla is right,” Falcon said. It is common knowledge that people at the lab shop for Christmas gifts in December and graduation gifts in May, continued Falcon, and so there is an increase in lost items reported in January and June.