Multiple Unit Audits involve looking into
the activities of a multiple number of local government entities
selected either from across the State or within a specified geographic
area. Statewide and regional audits can help point out for consideration
significant policy and operational issues common among many local
governments that share similar characteristics.
Generally, we found that BOCES are reserving funds without clearly reporting to their component and participating districts, and to the taxpayers who ultimately fund BOCES operations. The six BOCES we audited had 30 reserve funds, totaling almost $110 million, as of June 30, 2009. We found that $30.5 million allocated to reserves during the audit period were not clearly reported to districts. If these BOCES reported allocations to reserves in prior years in the same manner they do currently, the entire balance of $110 million, as well as amounts already spent from the reserves, was also not reported clearly. Furthermore, we found that $79 million in 27 reserves, or 72 percent of these BOCES’ total reserves, were not supported with liability calculations or documented use plans, were not used in accordance with statute, or were not authorized by statute.
BOCES - Transparency and Appropriateness of Reserve Funds [complete audit - pdf]
See related letters to: Capital Region BOCES [pdf], Erie 1 BOCES [pdf], Madison-Oneida BOCES [pdf], Nassau BOCES [pdf], Rockland BOCES [pdf], Western Suffolk BOCES [pdf]
Rochester Rhinos Soccer Stadium Civic Project
The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) and the City’s Urban Renewal Agency (RURA) failed to perform due diligence activities to determine PAETEC Park’s business-worthiness and overall feasibility because they believed they had little control over a project funded by an appropriation from the New York State Legislature. For example, no agency assumed lead agency responsibility for the project to coordinate oversight. ESDC and DASNY did not believe a lead agency was necessary, and RURA believed the State was responsible for protecting State monies. Although a soccer team is playing at the stadium - thanks to $19 million in State monies and to the appearance of a new owner at the last minute - current City officials acknowledged that they view the project as "making the best of a bad situation." Spending State funds on projects that are not scrutinized for their feasibility is a risky way to pursue economic development. There is a significant risk that PAETEC Park will continue to need City funds to operate in the foreseeable future. Finally, we found that all grant funds were used for properly documented PAETEC Park project costs.
City of Rochester, Empire State Development Corporation, and Dormitory Authority of the State of New York[complete audit - pdf]
The selected entities generally disposed of e-waste in an environmentally safe manner. During the period of our examination, the four entities collectively owned approximately 4,200 computer work stations and recycled 1,237 computer monitors and CPUs. Because this computer equipment was properly recycled, we estimate that the following hazardous materials did not enter the environment — approximately 1,406 pounds of lead and 37 pounds of mercury. In addition, we estimate that the recycling companies could have potentially recovered the following valuable materials — approximately 1,554 pounds of copper, 37 pounds of gold, and 3,146 pounds of aluminum.
Computer Equipment Disposal[complete audit - pdf]
See related letters to: Chatham Central School District [pdf], Kingston City School District [pdf], Schenectady County Community College [pdf], Ulster County [pdf]
We found that the local government entity officials are aware of the hazardous content in computer equipment and they have taken steps to dispose of the equipment in an environmentally safe manner. While each of the four entities recycles computer equipment, there are differences. For example, the Herkimer County Community College uses a local waste authority, which is a permitted household hazardous waste facility, for disposal of its computer equipment. Madison County operates its own solid waste department that collects both unneeded County-owned computer equipment as well as residential e-waste. Madison County, the OCM BOCES and Jamesville DeWitt Central School District dispose of unneeded computer equipment with a commercial recycler. We found the commercial recycler used by these entities was listed on the DEC web site as a “c7” notified recycler.
Computer Equipment Disposal in Central New York[complete audit - pdf]
See related letters to:
Herkimer County Community College [pdf],
Jamesville DeWitt Central School District [pdf],
Madison County [pdf],
Onondaga-Cortland-Madison Board of Cooperative Educational Services [pdf]
Voting Related Problems - September 2010 Primary Elections
We found that the Boards and the media reported that voters encountered numerous problems in voting districts throughout the State during the primary elections. For example, Board officials and the media reported that some voters complained of a lack of confidentiality during the voting or scanning process, were confused by the layout of the ballots, encountered machines that malfunctioned or stopped working altogether, and were delayed because polling stations opened late. Given the significant changes that have occurred in the election process – in the form of new ballots and new machines that neither voters nor all poll workers are familiar with – and the urgent need to ensure that voters can properly cast their ballots on Election Day in November 2010, Boards should take immediate steps to instruct poll workers to safeguard voters’ privacy throughout the voting process, to make ballot forms easier to understand and complete, to develop contingency plans to use when available machines malfunction, and to provide additional training to poll workers.
County Boards of Election[complete audit - pdf]
We found that Buffalo has a tracking system in place and successfully enforces compliance with the Code. While not in compliance, Elmira verifies that building owners provide for annual on-site inspections (the Code requires inspections every six months). However, we found that the remaining four cities (Binghamton, Poughkeepsie, Troy and Utica) are not ensuring that property owners have their elevators and related equipment properly inspected and/or tested in accordance with Code. In these four cities, only 63 of 213 (30 percent) of the elevators tested were QEI-inspected; none of the elevators in these cities’ municipal buildings were inspected. We attribute this significant rate of non-compliance to the fact that these cities do not have systems in place to inventory and track all elevators and related equipment subject to inspection, and to monitor compliance with the Code’s testing requirements. Consequently, these municipal officials do not know if the majority of the elevators and related equipment in their cities are safe to use.
Enforcement of Elevator and Related Equipment Inspections[complete audit - pdf]
See related letters to:
City of Binghamton [pdf],
City of Buffalo [pdf],
City of Elmira [pdf],
City of Poughkeepsie [pdf],
City of Troy [pdf],
City of Utica [pdf]
Claims Processing in the Capital Region
We reviewed the claims processing procedures at 10 local governments with 12 ARRA funded highway projects to determine whether governments have employed sound claims processing procedures while making payments for the ARRA funded highway projects. We found that each local government had systems in place and followed adequate claims processing procedures. In addition, with limited exceptions, we found that ARRA payments were made according to contract and project bid specifications, and related expenditures were reasonable, accurate and supported.
Federal Stimulus Program – Claims Processing in the Capital Region[complete audit - pdf]
Procurement for Local Highway Projects in the Capital Region
We found that local governments followed sound procurement procedures when awarding contracts funded by ARRA funds. Specifically, 11 of the12 local governments audited adhered to bidding laws and appropriately awarded their ARRA highway projects to the lowest responsible bidders. One municipality failed to advertise its project in the official newspaper, as required by General Municipal Law (GML) Section 103. We also found that all local governments had taken responsible measures to ensure that only responsible vendors were awarded contracts.
Federal Stimulus Program – Procurement for Local Highway Projects in the Capital Region[complete audit - pdf]
Procurement for Local Highway Projects in the Hudson Valley Region
We found that the eight local governments we audited in the Hudson Valley region followed sound procurement procedures when awarding contracts funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds. The report determined that these municipalities (Dutchess, Rockland and Ulster Counties; the City of Kingston; the Towns of Clarkstown and Poughkeepsie; and the Villages of Ellenville and Scarsdale) had competitively bid or used State contracts for work on the 11 projects we examined, and had taken reasonable measures to ensure that only responsible vendors were awarded contracts. We identified potential responsibility issues with the vendors used by two municipalities, and recommended that local officials monitor these vendors closely to ensure the adequacy and completeness of their performance on the project.
Federal Stimulus Program – Procurement for Local Highway Projects in the Hudson Valley Region[complete audit - pdf]
Procurement for Local Highway Projects in the Rochester Region
We found that the local governments followed sound procurement procedures when awarding contracts funded by ARRA funds. Specifically, all 12 local governments audited adhered to bidding laws and appropriately awarded their ARRA highway projects to the lowest responsible bidders. In addition to bidding its first project, Wayne County established a formal relationship with a State contract vendor for its second project. We also found that the local governments had taken appropriate measures to ensure that responsible vendors were awarded contracts.
Federal Stimulus Program – Procurement for Local Highway Projects in the Rochester Region[complete audit - pdf]
The financial condition of the State’s five regional Off-Track Betting Corporations has substantially deteriorated over the course of the last several years. Total handle (the total amount wagered on horse races) for the five Corporations declined by 10 percent in this five-year period; further, in the first five months of 2009, handle fell by 10 percent when compared to the same period in 2008. Various factors account for the significant and continuing downturn in handle, including a diminished interest in horseracing, competition from unregulated internet gambling sites, and restrictions on the siting of new remote wagering locations. After the Corporations pay bettors, they pay out a large portion (56 percent over the five-year period) of the remaining handle to the racing industry, the State, and local government. Operating revenues – what remains after Corporations make these payments - declined by an average of 13 percent at four of the five Corporations between 2004 and 2008. Although most of the Corporations have reduced their operating expenses, the Corporations’ net operating revenues - their collective bottom line – declined by 67 percent during this period. Given the significant amount of the "up front" payments the Corporations must make to the racing industry and government, and the extent to which these payments reduce operating revenues, we believe that Corporations will be unable to cut expenses fast enough to continue as financially viable entities if no action is taken to reduce these required payments.
Financial Condition of New York State Off-Track Betting Corporations [complete audit - pdf]
See related letters to: Capital Off-Track Betting Corporation [pdf], Catskill Off-Track Betting Corporation [pdf], Nassau Off-Track Betting Corporation [pdf], Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corporation [pdf], Western Off-Track Betting Corporation [pdf]
Based on our examination of various records, reports and bank statements, we determined that over $14,000 was apparently misappropriated in three Justice Courts included in this report. The software used by the 10 Courts we audited permits deletion of information without authorization and it does not generate an audit log of activities in the system. In three of the 10 courts we audited we found the deletion of data associated with the payment of fines and bail. In the Town of Cortlandt $7,500, was apparently misappropriated and then was returned before we began our audit. In the Village of Cold Spring $1,830 was apparently misappropriated and then $1,730 was returned after we began our audit. However, in the Town of Wallkill at least $5,015 was still missing. In addition, Court personnel did not perform monthly reconciliations of bank to book balances and did not maintain accurate bail lists. As a result, cash shortages or inappropriate transactions would likely not be identified. Furthermore, Court personnel did not deposit approximately $132,000 in a timely manner.
Internal Controls Over Selected Justice Courts’ Financial Activities[complete audit - pdf]
See related letters to: Village of Buchanan [pdf],
Village of Cold Spring [pdf],
Town of Cortlandt [pdf],
Village of Greenwood Lake [pdf],
Village/Town of Harrison [pdf],
Town of Haverstraw [pdf],
Town of Philipstown [pdf],
Village of Port Chester [pdf],
Village of Spring Valley [pdf],
Town of Wallkill [pdf]
We found that eight out of nine Collecting Officers deposited tax collections on a timely basis; one Collector made numerous bank deposit errors and did not reconcile tax collection bank accounts. However, we found that only three of the nine Collecting Officers (from Chester, Queensbury and Warrensburg) remitted tax receipts properly. Of the remaining six Collecting Officers, only one remitted tax collections timely and/or in full to the Supervisors, and none of the six remitted tax collections timely and/or in full to the County. As a result, tax collections were not always available to Supervisors when they should have been. Delays in remitting collections to the County Treasurer also contributed to the County’s cash flow problems. In February 2009, the County had to issue $4.5 million in tax anticipation notes (TANs) so it could pay bills and other obligations through April 2009. Although the County repaid the TANs in April after receiving tax collections from Collecting Officers, issuing the short-term debt cost the County $2,200 in issuance fees and $31,100 in interest expense.
Real Property Tax Collections and Remittances in Warren County[complete audit - pdf]
See related letters to: Town of Bolton [pdf],
Town of Chester [pdf],
Town of Hague [pdf],
Town of Horicon [pdf],
Town of Johnsburg [pdf],
Town of Lake George [pdf],
Town of Lake Luzerne [pdf],
Town of Queensbury [pdf],
Town of Warrensburg [pdf]