CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Legislative Auditor wants to know who signed off on the state's decision to buy $24 million in Internet routers with federal stimulus funds and how the purchase benefited taxpayers.
Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred has given Homeland Security director Jimmy Gianato until Dec. 21 to answer 16 questions and nine informational requests about the state's use of a $126.3-million federal stimulus grant designed to expand high-speed Internet in West Virginia.
Allred's office is investigating the router purchase. Gianato administers the broadband project.
"It is clear based on conversations with members [of the Legislature] that an overview of the grant needs to be provided," Allred said.
Members of a joint House-Senate technology committee planned to ask Gianato the questions at an interim meeting Tuesday. But Gianato was in Sissonville with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to update the media on the Sissonville natural gas pipeline explosion.
Sen. Mike Green, who heads the technology committee, said state lawmakers would summon Gianato to the group's next meeting in early January.
"We'll have a full meeting to answer those questions," said Green, D-Raleigh.
In 2010, the state used the stimulus funds to purchase more than 1,000 Cisco routers for "community anchor institutions" - schools, libraries, State Police detachments, health clinics, 911 centers, county courthouses, state agencies and other public facilities. The routers cost $22,600 each.
In a letter released Tuesday, the Legislative Auditor's office has asked Gianato to explain how the routers were purchased, and when and where they were delivered.
The two-page letter also asks Gianato to reveal who advised state officials to purchase the routers, why they were purchased all at one time, and who suggested buying only one size of router.
"How come representatives of WVNET [the state's Internet services agency] were not consulted?" the letter says. "How come the Cisco 3945 routers were not right-sized for the areas they were to be installed? Who made the suggestion to buy one size, and who made the decision?"
The Gazette has reported that the routers were designed to serve hundreds of users or computer connections, but the state has installed many of the devices in libraries and other facilities with only a handful of computer terminals.
Some facility administrators have said they never requested the routers. Others have complained that they can't use the routers.