When auditors from the Pittsburgh City Controller’s office went to Public Works storage yards this summer, they found some equipment was missing, but they also found equipment that was not on any list.
Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb said he does not think there was any criminal intent. Instead, he thinks it was just a matter of not properly using the right management systems.
“It was not like, when we got out there and found more weed whackers than they had (on an inventory) that someone said, ‘My God where did those come from?’" Lamb said. "They knew they were there, they just weren’t tracking them with their centralized inventory.”
Contributing to the problem is a practice of allowing each of the divisions in the Public Works Department to order their own equipment and have it shipped directly to the division’s yard. It would at times take months before paperwork was filled out and sent back to city hall.
“As a result there is no centralized labeling or logging of that equipment,” Lamb said.
The audit recommends that the department move away from paper records to a computerized system, while also calling for a better system of labeling equipment with tracking numbers as soon as it enters a division’s yard.
The audit also recommends that each piece of equipment be better tracked on a day-to-day basis.
DPW managers have said they will work to comply with all of the audit’s recommendations. A new software-based equipment management system has already been purchased and is being implemented.
Lamb said along with eliminating the possibility of theft or other criminal activity, the system will allow the division to better maintain its equipment and make costs analyses of each proposed project based not only on manpower but also on equipment wear and tear.
The audit also notes that the divisions do not all use the same make and model of equipment such as mowers.
“That does not sound that offensive,” Lamb said. “But when you are talking about having a city-wide inventory, part of that is having the parts to fix this equipment when it breaks down, and it’s a lot easier to do when you have a single brand that’s being used so you can keep parts in our inventory.”
Auditors also found that do to a lack of investment in DPW facilities, much of the equipment is either stored outside or in leaky buildings. Lamb recommends that those buildings be repaired, new shelters be constructed and equipment be stored on racks and pallets rather than on the ground.
Lamb has long complained through such audits that the city has done a bad job of tracking all of its capital assets.