Audit reveals city's poor inventory tracking

LOS ANGELES Hundreds of items belonging to the city of Los Angeles have apparently done a disappearing act. The city's controller discovered the items were missing during an audit. But some of the missing items may not be missing after all.

/*Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel*/ audited three city departments. Monday she said her auditors discovered that hundreds of items that the city purchased for almost $1 million either were misplaced or couldn't be located at all.

"Our findings, we felt, were very troubling," said Greuel. "Overall we found that oversight of equipment location and use to be severely lacking."

Greuel's office audited the Department of Sanitation, Parks and Recreation and the Information Technology Agency. Of 254 items investigators attempted to locate, 115 were not where they were supposed to be. They later tracked down 56, but 59 are still missing. Included in that list: a $60,000 video recorder ordered by the Information Technology Agency.

"During these difficult economic times, it is easy to cut back on oversight, which makes fraud and abuse more likely," said Greuel.

At this point though, Greuel's office has not reported any theft to police. Some equipment that she thought was missing wasn't. Her press release lists two Sanitation Department gas analyzers as missing. But department head Enrique Zaldivar said the analyzers were found at the Hyperion Water Treatment Plant, right where they were supposed to be.

"I want to say that those two pieces of equipment, gas analyzers, these are sophisticated, expensive pieces of equipment. They're at our laboratory being utilized right now, and they had been there, it's just that the report didn't reflect that," said Zaldivar.

One reason for the confusion, say department heads, is that many have tracking systems that are independent of the auditor's, so it takes some time to reconcile inventories.

Greuel says she also found a lot of equipment that was purchased but not used. At Parks and Rec, the audit found microwave ovens, TV sets and a deep-fryer purchased seven years ago still sitting on the shelf. The department's general manager said he'll clean that up.

"We will fix this," said Jon Mukri, city of Los Angeles general manager.

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