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Missouri state auditor to possibly review Water Services Department

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The state of Missouri's top auditor is discussing a possible review of the Kansas City, MO, Water Services Department after four stories from the KCTV5 Investigations' team exposed major discrepancies.

The stories exposed the millions of dollars in overdue accounts, pricey public relations hires and bills sent to properties without any pipes.

Now, one of Missouri's top investigators hopes his boss, the governor, will let him examine the water department's books.

"You've exposed something that's pretty serious here and it does need a fresh set of eyes, there's no doubt about it," said Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich.

Schweich has watched nearly a year's worth of KCTV5 Investigations into the KCMO Water Services Department.

In July 2012, the investigations team revealed a list of $13 million in unpaid bills. At that time, it included some prominent names, like sports complexes as well as federal, state and county governments. None were being pursued for nonpayment.

"Obviously there is a situation of over $13 million in uncollected bills. There appears to be a selectivity in people they are going after to collect the bills - the least able to afford being sued and those able to pay being able to get by. It's very problematic," Schweich said.

The KCMO Water Services Department hired new staff after the story ran to try and go after those who do not pay but, nearly 10 months later, very little has changed.

A May 2013 open records request shows even more customers owe the agency money. The total amount has dropped by $500,000, but the delinquent accounts include many of the same names.

The legal department has taken action against a few more customers – individuals and private businesses only.

"I'd be happy to go in there and do an audit if we get one of the criteria to give me jurisdiction to do it," Schweich said.

Schweich said his hands are tied at the moment. He hopes Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will grant him the authority to go in and look into KCMO Water Services' books.

"If you look at the audits I've done in the last two years it's trying to uncover exactly that kind of government waste," the auditor said.

The governor's office said it's thinking over the auditor's request. The city's spokesman said in a written statement, "We will hold comment until an audit is authorized as per the law."

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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