The Department of Agriculture and Markets (Ag&Mkts) and the Office of General Services (OGS) are now directing all state agencies to submit better reporting of their purchases of New York produced foods according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli found numerous problems.
"In 2013, in an effort to boost New York based agriculture, state law was changed to encourage state agencies to buy local and track how much the state was spending on food," DiNapoli said. "My auditors found the implementation of the program needed improvement. The tracking of purchases was not up to par and state agencies were not always given the necessary guidelines or training to buy more locally produced foods. With changes put in place since our audit began, New York farmers and food producers could see increased business from the state."
To assist agencies in increasing their purchases of New York grown agricultural products and promote local farms and agricultural businesses, state law requires OGS and Ag&Mkts to develop regulations, establish guidelines, and provide training on New York state food purchasing to agency personnel.
OGS is also responsible for tracking data on state agencies' food purchases and for providing a Food Metrics Annual Report to the Governor and the Legislature detailing these purchases. The report is supposed to include information on OGS' efforts to improve and increase the tracking of information relating to New York state foods procured by agencies, as well as data on the types and sources of food products purchased by agencies during the year.
Foods are considered New York state products if they have been grown, harvested, produced, or processed in the state.
DiNapoli's auditors found that recent Food Metrics Annual Reports contained calculation errors and lacked complete information on statewide food purchasing. For example, the 2015 report omitted two months (October and November) of purchase data from a contractor, including 3,689 transactions worth $245,000 involving New York sources. The report also improperly included about $11 million in purchases made by entities that are not operated by the state.
Auditors also found OGS and Ag&Mkts had not developed guidelines called for in the law to direct and assist state agencies in procuring New York State food products, nor had OGS provided training to agency personnel, as required by the law.
In May, in response to the audit, OGS and Ag&Mkts finalized and published the required guidelines for state agencies. These guidelines now direct agencies to submit more complete reporting of food purchases to OGS, which should aid in issuing more accurate Food Metrics Annual Reports in the future and ultimately increase the purchase of New York food products.
The audit recognized the progress made by OGS and Ag&Mkts in the development of the program guidelines, and recommended that OGS:
- Develop and provide training to agencies and vendors on reporting and purchasing of New York State foods; and
- Develop and implement adequate controls to detect and correct anomalies and inaccuracies in the data used to create the Food Metrics Annual Report.
In general, agency officials agreed with the recommendations and noted the actions they have taken to implement them.
Read the audit, or go to: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093017/17s18.pdf
Today's audit is part of DiNapoli's effort to examine issues impacting agriculture across New York state. Recently, he has released reports on state farm-to-school programs, organic farming and the economic impact of agriculture in New York.
For access to state and local government spending, public authority financial data and information on 130,000 state contracts, visit Open Book New York. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote transparency in government and provide taxpayers with better access to financial data.