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Internal audit cites recycling lapses

Coding, billing issues found; waste firm to pay city $4,246

– Fort Wayne’s Solid Waste Department needs tighter controls, officials said, after an audit found problems in what the city was being paid for recycled materials, billing for multi-unit residences and how it’s paid for scrap metal.

The internal audit, released Friday, found that Republic Services owed the city $4,246 because of errors in rates and tonnage calculations.

Auditor Mindy Hurley said the totals on the spreadsheets used all matched, but when she added up the columns by hand they didn’t match the totals.

The audit also found problems in the billing for multi-unit housing. Some were correctly coded for multi-unit but were only being charged as if it was a single-family home. Some single-family homes were coded as if they were multi-unit. Auditors said that it appeared that in most cases the incorrect coding was not resulting in incorrect billing, but there was no way to know for certain because of the errors.

The department said the problems stemmed from the data not being reviewed for several years but that it would be audited to ensure all coding and billing is correct.

Auditors then found that departments were not tracking the container numbers used by city departments for recycling scrap metal. The result was that there was no way to ensure they were being paid for the scrap they recycled.

Finally, they found that customers who had ordered an extra garbage cart were not being billed the extra $2 a month because the department was not sending the list of addresses in a timely manner. The department will now send the list monthly.

A separate audit brought almost nothing but praise for the city parks department.

“This was a really clean audit,” said Tracy Neumeier, director of the Internal Audit Department. “They do a really good job over there.”

Neumeier said the audit was especially impressive given the size and scope of the parks department, which is one of the city’s largest.

The only item found was a minor one, dealing with a contract for maintenance of Headwaters Park. The base contract is for $100,000, but there are items that can be added on, which would push it above the threshold for requiring City Council approval. Auditors suggested getting City Council approval on the contract in the future in case the price is increased later.

The Audit Committee also discussed its review of the charter and city ordinance establishing and governing the audit department itself.

During budget discussions last fall, City Council members suggested eliminating the department; that move was later reduced to funding it only for the first quarter of 2013 and requiring audit officials to come back and justify the department’s existence.

As part of that process, the department is reviewing its governing documents, policies and procedures.

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