When the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics wanted 12,000 three-ring binders, it claimed that an unusual supplier was its "source of last resort."

That supplier was the U.S. military, which Paralympics officials persuaded to spend $18,240 in federal funds to buy and provide the loose-leafs.Of course, Defense Department auditors now point out that such notebooks "were readily available from office supply stores and manufacturers in the Atlanta area."

They say officials of the Atlanta Olympics, Paralympics and the military stretched "last resort" supplier rules not only for those binders but also cellular phones, tents, furniture and even some refurbishing of Atlanta's City Hall.

On top of that, they say Atlanta failed to speedily return or reimburse for loss of $500,000 or so of borrowed military equipment - and the military failed to do much to seek it.

So the Defense Department's inspector general wants rules about such military Olympic support tightened up and clarified before the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

This information is contained in documents obtained by the Deseret News through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Inspector General's Office said a main problem is that a rule allowing the military to be an Olympics "source of last resort" did not require "justification that the borrowers had attempted to obtain equipment from other sources and items were not available."

In fact, it said so little justification was sought by Atlanta officials that the Defense Department's Office of Special Affairs even gave some requesters blank forms already stamped with approval as a "source of last resort . . . although other sources were available."

The inspector general said the military processed 971 requests for equipment or support for the Atlanta Games and said examples that clearly did not meet the "source of last resort" criteria (besides the binders) included:

- Paying $60,000 for the air time (not just equipment) for cellular phones and pagers provided to some Olympic officials (although military personnel said they used half of that air time themselves).

- Providing 85 tents for behind-the-scenes Olympics activities and 50 smaller general-purpose tents to protect equipment.

- Spending $150,000 to refurbish the Joint Command Center in the City Hall East building in Atlanta, including replacing ceiling tiles, carpeting, desk modules and wallpaper. (But military officers said the city had given the military 315,000 square feet of rent-free office space).

- Requesting "refrigerators, cots, sofas, lounge chairs, coffee tables and end tables that appeared to be for personnel comfort and not directly related to security or public safety."

The inspector general, therefore, called for establishing tighter procedures to "limit support to issues directly related to security and the related support that is not available from other sources" before the 2002 Olympics.

On a related topic, the inspector general also found that the military "did not aggressively pursue prompt return or reimbursement for about $500,000 worth of items (as of March 1, 1997)" that the Atlanta Olympics and Paralympics borrowed.

Atlanta and other police agencies had borrowed $32 million worth of equipment for the games, ranging from physical barriers to computers and radios.

However, auditors wrote, "The loan agreements did not provide a cutoff date for remitting payments, indicate whether interest or penalties would accrue or specify the consequences of not reimbursing the value of lost or damaged equipment."

It noted that many borrowers who had not returned equipment - including the Georgia State Patrol and the Atlanta and Conyers police departments - had never been sent letters seeking returns or reimbursement.

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Auditors wrote, "Long delays in following up on overdue equipment increases the potential for lost equipment."

To prove that point, auditors said examination of military files revealed the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department had never returned or paid for a 27-inch color TV and a personal computer loaned to it in support of the 1994 World Cup Soccer Championship.

Worse, "After the equipment return dates, the OSE (military Office of Special Events) purchased items similar" to that TV and computer.

The upshot of the abuses is that the inspector general called for better written procedures to avoid such problems before the next U.S. Olympics in Salt Lake City.

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