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Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

Little Has Been Done After a Long Time

Editor’s note: This is the last of three columns in a series reviewing the status of audits from L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel. VICA has worked with city controllers over the years to ensure audits are heard by the City Council and recommendations are implemented. Three City Controller audits, three columns and millions of dollars thrown away by the city of Los Angeles – these are the findings from VICA’s review of Controller Wendy Greuel’s audit scorecard. And the three audits we have focused on are just the beginning. Of the nearly 30 reports included in the scorecard, 12 have yet to see any action on implementation. These are not old audits, although many revealed that no action has been taken on issues that were first examined several years ago in audits by previous controllers. No, the contents of the audit scorecard are from 2009 and 2010 with most taking several months to even be heard by the City Council. For our three-column focus on the audit scorecard, VICA selected audits listed at 0-percent implementation. The series began with a review of the Audit of Citywide Fixed Assets and Equipment, which found that the city is losing millions of dollars by not adequately tracking its property. We followed that column with the Audit of Early Payments to Vendors that revealed paying vendors too early and not taking advantage of automated payment systems was costing the city millions more. Now we turn our attention to the Review of Volume Discounts for Commodity Contracts, and the themes are the same. The city is not properly managing its resources and, in doing so, wasting money. And despite the recommendations for more effective management of the resources, city officials and department heads take little or no action toward improvement. The Review of Volume Discounts for Commodity Contracts is actually a follow-up to a 2007 audit that discovered potential savings of close to half a million dollars if volume discount thresholds were properly monitored. Controller Greuel’s 2009 review found that the Department of General Services had taken some measures to rectify the problem, but the results were still lacking. Ineffective system A manual tracking system was implemented that proved to be ineffective and the lost discounts that were identified by the previous audit had not been fully collected. To a business person these seem like logical and easily-implementable solutions that would allow for maximum purchasing power. However, this now approximately 16-month old audit has still seen no movement toward implementation. We won’t fool ourselves into believing that audit implementation would fix all the city’s budget problems. Public budgets are much more complex and several factors (such as pensions and the economy) contribute to the city’s budget deficit. However, we cannot ignore the waste and mismanagement. The city has a responsibility to effectively manage the funds entrusted to it by its residents and not ask taxpayers for more without first getting its fiscal house in order. Our money The millions lost due to poor inventory management, mistimed payments and missing opportunities for volume discounts belong to Angelenos. This is money individuals and businesses pay for the services our city is obligated to provide, yet many of these vital services are threatened by the dire budget situation. While this is a common cry by taxpayers to government, the outrage needs action. VICA will continue to raise awareness about the waste uncovered by controller audits and work with officials to correct the problem, but the community must join the call. Visit Controller Greuel’s website (http://controller.lacity.org), read her audits and follow up with your city councilmember to see that the cost-saving recommendations are implemented. Remember, your public servants are supposed to work for you. What will you do to hold city officials accountable for implementing these cost-saving measures? What city audits would you like VICA to monitor? E-mail your responses or thoughts about the column to angela@vica.com.

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