Anybody who hoped an independent probe would answer the question everybody had about how Galveston County lost more than $500,000 will be disappointed.
The report by Lubbock-based Dawson Forensic Group, which was issued Nov. 9 and made public Monday, scrupulously avoids assigning blame to anyone for the embarrassing and extremely large loss of public money.
“It is evident that our report fails to assign blame to a single department or even a single individual associated with Galveston County,” the report states.
“This is based on our conclusion that a department or individual cannot be held accountable for noncompliance with processes that may not have been properly designed or that didn’t exist.”
The report does take a weak stab at explaining how such a remarkable thing as getting ripped off for more than $525,000 happened. It does so in a sentence that stands as a monument to the grammatical passive voice’s ability to shield actors from their actions.
“The Event was able to be accomplished or accommodated due to:”
The report goes on to list three ways the $525,282.39 was enabled to get itself stolen.
“• a lack of understanding/training as to recognition of these types of attacks,
“• a lack of vendor information establishment/change validation processes, and
“• a lack of understanding as to which office/department had the responsibility for validating vendor information.”
At least one new detail about the theft did emerge thanks to the report. Our understanding had been the thieves convinced somebody in county government to send the money — the $525,282.39, that is — via electronic funds transfer to an account different from the one on record for Lucas Construction Co.
That, however, was not the case, according to the report. The fact is Lucas Construction had never been paid by electronic transfer before, but had been paid by old-fashioned checks, according to the report.
The scammers downloaded a form from a county website, filled it out and submitted it before consummating the theft. So, the scammers also convinced county employees or officials or both to create the fake account into which county employees or officials or both unfortunately deposited more than a half-million dollars.
That is a truly remarkable example of being asleep at all the switches.
Taxpayers who’d hoped for something like justice from the Dawson report, which they paid $14,000 more or less, can perhaps be forgiven for thinking that if nobody, exactly, is accountable for losing their money then everybody at the county should be held accountable.
Of course, the only real justice would be in finding, convicting and imprisoning the thieves; none of which seems very likely.
And in the meantime, somebody, maybe several somebodies, was responsible for those lacks of understanding, training, information and processes.
Lacks like that sure sound like leadership failures.
• Michael A. Smith