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Saratoga audit points to spending flaws

The results of a state audit have spurred the city's accounts department to remind departments of the city's controls over purchasing.

The results of the audit conducted by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office were sent to city officials two weeks ago. From Jan. 1, 2005, to March 31, 2007, auditors reviewed the city purchasing practices and found that 16 out of 36 city purchases exceeding $1,499 were not in compliance with council-approved purchasing policies.

There wasn't proper documentation of purchases. We do 12,000 purchases a year. They are on the books; we just weren't following our policies. There isn't any fraud, said John Franck, Accounts Department commissioner.

That policy states that purchases under $1,499 are allowed without quotes or bids. Purchases between $1,499 and $5,000 require quotes, and purchases exceeding $10,000 are required to go to bid, Franck said.

The 16 purchases totaled $64,427, and most were made through the city's Public Works and Public Safety departments, which routinely make the most purchases in a given year for items such as shovels and emergency equipment.

Each of the examined 36 purchases exceeding $1,499 was subject to the requirements established in the city's procurement policy. Those requirements include verbal or written quotes or the required number of verbal or written quotes as prescribed by the city's procurement policy, read the audit.

In some cases, personnel did not include required documentation to verify their attempts made to obtain quotes.

Franck described the comptroller's findings as a non-event, but still necessary to assure that the taxpayers are getting the best price and quality for purchases made by city departments.

"A sound purchasing program is to assure the city gets the bet goods and services for the best price," said Bill Reynolds, DiNapoli spokesman. "We found there were cases when they needed to tighten up controls."

A procurement policy enables officials to verify that a purchase meets the city's needs that money is available for the purchase, and that employees have complied with city policies for obtaining competitive quotes.

Franck said he plans to sit down with city departments to go over the procurement policy to make sure it is followed in the future, he said.""

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