The city could save millions of dollars if a decade-long backlog of auditor recommendations is implemented, a recent analysis shows.
The city auditor’s biannual report released this month found more than 180 recommendations have not been fully implemented over the past 10 years, which could save the city an estimated $23 million. Some of those cost-effective recommendations include curbing time off and overtime hours in the San Jose Police Department and renegotiating revenue sharing with Santa Clara Valley Water District. Other recommendations include monitoring homeless service providers and tracking the million-dollar grants approved by the city. This would help to ensure funding is used appropriately.
The city recently launched the Homelessness Program Dashboard showing the impact and costs of city-run programs to tackle the housing crisis.
“The idea is to have more transparency,” Councilmember David Cohen told San José Spotlight. “How are dollars being spent and where are they coming from?”
The city auditor’s office investigates city departments and programs, highlighting ways to improve efficiency, reduce public waste, ensure transparency and accountability. The most recent audits in December focused on city services and the police department, which revealed officers are not inspecting gun shops properly. Every six months, the auditor goes back to check if its recommendations were enacted.
City Auditor Joe Rois isn’t alarmed by how long it’s taking city officials to fulfil his office’s recommendations. Most take years because they require new contracts, overhauling city processes and tracking data.
“The way San Jose is responding is pretty typical,” Rois told San José Spotlight.. “While some recommendations can get done fairly quickly, others can take years because it takes time to get a new contract, for example.”
City officials have enacted 35 recommendations in the past six months. Over the past decade, administrators have implemented 78% of all recommendations, and the goal is to reach 80%.
The city council last week approved a new contract for operating the city’s three golf courses — fulfilling an audit recommendation from 2015. The auditor recommended the city pursue more favorable contract terms so it wouldn’t need to subsidize golf course operations, saving upward of $2 million annually.
“It takes a while to get an agreement in place because there are so many people involved,” Rois said.
Other auditor recommendations aim to hold city officials accountable such as one that requires documentation to support contracts awarded without bids during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the city could award such contracts during the emergency orders, it should document why it did not seek multiple bids. The city could lose about $13 million if it’s out of compliance, according to the report.
“The finance department has been working on getting all those files in place with the expectation that the federal government will come back to look at some of the stuff,” Rois said. “They are doing this because worst case scenario the federal government could try to claw back those dollars.”
Another audit recommended creating a roster of massage parlors to find those without permits or expired licenses. This is estimated to bring in more than $75,000.
Rois said some recommendations are close to implementation, including a 2019 recommendation to better monitor city credit card spending. That should be completed by September. And the police department is expected to report its new method for controlling overtime in June.
“A lot of work has been done,” Rois said. “But there is other work still to be done underneath in some very important areas, like managing overtime and federal dollars, code enforcement, on the services areas.”
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.
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