A report from the State Auditor’s office questions the pricey purchase of an ice machine for the state agency that handles liquor.

Like nearly all state agencies, the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division has credit cards that can be used to buy office supplies and other items for general office use. According to the auditor’s report, “the Division’s purchase of an ice machine for $3,732” has not been clearly documented.

Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins says his staff wasn’t able to determine how the ice machine is being used.

“I can’t tell you exactly what they need one for,” Jenkins says. “Perhaps in the location they’re at it’s useful for the workers and their meals and such, but that’s why we say it’s so important that for something like this that you document what the public purpose is for something that might not on the surface seem like it’s absolutely necessary.”

The agency’s formal response, which is included in the audit report, did not provide an explanation.

“Doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to buy it, as long as you explain why,” Jenkins says, “and give the public an opportunity to understand your logic.”

Radio Iowa asked the agency for more information as well.  The response, provided via email late this afternoon, indicates the $3732 ice machine is for staff use.

“The purchase of the ice machine (cited) in the Audit Report was authorized by ABD’s former CFO to replace (an) inoperative machine in the warehouse break room,” said Deb Bassett, executive assistant to the division’s administration. “As stated in the accepted response to the Audit, the Division now requires management to review all invoices prior to payment to ensure purchases meet the requirements of public purpose.”

This isn’t the first time spending in this agency has been questioned. In 2010, an audit found the agency bought an $1100 dishwasher that employees primarily used to wash their lunch dishes and some big-ticket purchases were made without competitive bids.

The auditors’ review of agency spending from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011 randomly reviewed 27 transactions. One of third “did not have “proper supporting documentation” — like the name of the vendor, the date of the purchase and, in some cases, how much was spent.

(This story was updated at 5:11 p.m. with additional information.)