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November 29, 2007

DiNapoli: Improved Oversight for Code Enforcement
Needed in Otsego County

With proper oversight and record-keeping, Otsego County could have avoided losing $608,650 in code enforcement revenue for the past 16 years, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit also found that fire inspections have not been conducted in a timely manner.

“Governments face a real challenge providing services with rising costs and limited resources,” DiNapoli said. “Property taxpayers are already under enough pressure; it’s critically important that officials keep accurate records and be sure that all revenues are collected.”

Auditors found that county code enforcement staff members were not following up on permit renewals; were not collecting and recording permit and complaint fees in a timely manner; and that there was no system in place requiring owners to retain a valid permit until a certificate of occupancy was issued.

Permit fees were often not recorded into the system until weeks or months after they were collected. County officials did not restrict access to the computer system, which increased the potential for records errors and irregularities. The system also contained erroneous fire inspection deadline information, which contributed to the code enforcement staff failing to inspect structures on a timely basis.

DiNapoli recommended county officials:

  • enhance follow-up procedures on unpaid building permit renewal fees and ensure that on-site visits lead to stop-work orders against un-permitted construction;
  • ensure that renewal fees are collected and explore collecting delinquent renewal fees;
  • establish policies and procedures requiring personnel to immediately enter permit fees into the computer system, reconcile computerized cash receipts data with manual receipt records, track all complaints and enter collected fees into the computer system, and restrict access to the computer system to guard against abuse; and
  • ensure that inspectors perform timely fire inspections and correct inaccuracies in the computer-generated fire inspection report.

County officials generally agreed with the audit’s findings and said they would develop a corrective action plan within 90 days.

Click here for a copy of the audit.



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