Muskogee County taxpayers are footing the bill for phone lines that are not in use.
The county’s phone bills have risen about $3,000 for each of the last three or four months since the county switched phone carriers during a system upgrade.
The county had been billed about $3,000 per month by AT&T. Since the county switched carriers, the phone bill has risen to about $5,500 per month — $2,500 by new carrier MetTel and $3,000 by AT&T.
The county was trying to save money when it switched carriers.
Commissioners were told the duplicate billing stemmed from the existence of “ghost lines,” or dead extension lines no longer being used.
An audit conducted a couple of months ago revealed the existence of 30 such lines that subsequently were disconnected.
Both carriers told the commissioners they will submit reports on the issue. Until the commissioners are able to read AT&T’s report, we will not know whether the taxpayers will receive a refund.
The county should be looking at measures to ensure this kind of problem does not happen again.
More periodic audits would be a good start.
These audits are beneficial in most businesses.
The audits can determine that bills match services received.
The county also could benefit from one centralized figure for all phone requests.
The county has seven elected officials who each determine the number of lines their departments require.
Having all phone requests routed through one office or person should help determine if an unused line exists before placing a new order.
The county should find a way to guarantee taxpayers these kinds of charges are eliminated.