About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, January 29, 2016

NorCo Controller: Procurement Practices Need Review

Northampton County's procurement practices, outlined in the Administrative Code, are badly in need of an overhaul. That's the biggest recommendation made by Controller Steve Barron in his detailed annual report on county operations. (You can read it here.)

The County's procurement practices have resulted in two lawsuits within the past two years, pitting Council against the Executive, over interpretations of bidding practices contained in the Administrative Code. Barron calls these provisions "unclear, inconsistent, and in some cases, overly restrictive. As a result, it does not always provide clear and reasonable guidance for the procurement of goods and services."

Given what is going on in Allentown, this should raise all kinds of red flags to anyone interested in good government. Moreover, no one who disagrees with Barron's assessment. Throughout the past year, members of Council and the Administration have both expressed dissatisfaction with the procurement provisions. Yet Council has failed to take action.

Barron is recommending a "comprehensive revision" of procurement practices, which he suggests should be a "cooperative effort between representatives of both the Administration and County Council."

In other aspects of his report, Barron makes the following findings:

1. DA Drug Forfeitures. - "The County Detective should document the procedures for processing Drug Forfeiture Agency Fund transactions."

2. Public Works timekeeping. - "We were unable to reach a conclusion about the overall accuracy of payroll in the Public Works Department due to the lack of adequate documentation, and supervisory review and approval."

3. County's P-Cards. - These are responsible for nearly $1 million in purchases every year. "The Procurement Card Program continues to be an efficient, cost-effective method of paying for purchases without the need for petty cash, small purchase orders or accounts payable checks. Overall the program is working as intended."

4. Tax Claim Agency, (handles tax sales of real estate). - "[T]axes recovered through Upset and Judicial Sales are disbursed prior to obtaining an order confirming distribution from the court, in violation of Section 205 (3) of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law."

5. Hotel Tax Grants - "The Northampton County Department of Community and Economic Development should ensure that these grants are monitored for compliance with Ordinance 484 and the terms of the grant agreements. Monitoring is a valuable tool that could have resulted in the avoidance or correction of non-compliance issues that were experienced by ArtsQuest."

6. Medical Claims - "In 2014, the County spent just under $22.8 million to pay for medical and prescription claims for enrolled employees, retirees and eligible family members, and an additional $1,213,535.66 in administrative fees to CBC for third-party administration and stop loss insurance."

7. Conservation District. - "The application tracking process involves eight different logs covering approximately 113 different data fields. The number of logs maintained results in inefficiencies in the office as it is a duplication of effort."

8. Constables. - According to Barron, they are "overpaid for server fees," payment sheets are not signed, duties are not rotated.

9. Mail. "Savings could be attained by the County in the handling of postage machine leases. Some machines aren’t necessary, such as the one at the Jail and one of the machines at the Human Service building. Mail that could be processed through the Mailroom should flow through there as it will reduce the need for manpower to operate the offsite machines, and correspondence would be mailed at a cheaper rate."

10. Recorder of Deeds. - "[P]erform more frequent random cash drawer verifications."

11. DUI Offendors. -
"Offender supervision fees were not assessed on defendants under the supervision of the DUI Office. Defendants under the supervision of DUI are charged a $30 monthly “DUI Parole Fee” which amounted to $307,036 for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014."

12. Payroll. - "We identified three instances in which employees did not receive the longevity payment to which they were entitled."


Anonymous said...

Who audits Barrons office? Let's look at inefficiencies and charter violations within his operations.

Bernie O'Hare said...

His office is reviews every year by a firm that audits controllers. Their audit is part of his annual report, and if you bothered reading, you'd know that.

Anonymous said...

He audited how many cookies Ron Shegda stole. The numbers are stifling!

Anonymous said...

5:16. Come on, this waste of space is getting old. Do you need a psychologist to help you or something? Please get help and stop posting here

Anonymous said...

Seems like barron is finally doing a better job

Anonymous said...

What Jim Gregory needs to do is move to Chicago, where his disdain for the law will be welcome.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Barron's campaign for County Exec has begun and Bernie is on the bandwagon.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This was actually a excellent trport, and relates solely to barron's function as Controller. It is a credit to the people in his office more than it is to him, as Barron would be quick to tell you. It's the first time I ever actually understood a controller report, but i am a Democrat and we have problems with numbers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The comment about gregory was place about 5 am, when the Blog Mentor starts for the day. he is posting many of these comments and is an instigator.

Anonymous said...

finally, it appears, this department gets it when it comes to the responsibilities as a controller.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Barron, as far as the post stamp machine in the prison, there is a population of residents in the Prison that reaches 800 plus. Each resident may mail out 5 pieces of mail each week for free. That is not counting the legal, return packages and other mail. This is done by a night shift employee as part as their duties. It might be a burden to the government building mail room staff. Weigh the cost effectiveness of removing it.