No improprieties turned up in an audit of the Solid Waste Division account, but the accounting firm that reviewed the division's books suggested several ways it could keep better track of its finances.
Mark W. Stevens, a partner in the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche of Salt Lake City, told the City Council Tuesday a detailed review of the budget "found no indication of any impropriety in all of our testing."The City Council requested an audit several months ago after City Manager Daryl Berlin discovered a $235,000 shortfall in the division's budget. A subsequent investigation found that the division underestimated the amount of garbage it would haul to the landfill and thus paid more in tipping fees than planned.
Garbage trucks also broke down more frequently than expected, resulting in more overtime for crews as they struggled to get trash picked up.
The city used the same faulty tonnage estimations in its 1992-93 budget.
The council raised the price for extra garbage cans from $3.20 to $7 several weeks ago to help raise revenue in the division. The council also is seeking bids on service from private garbage haulers to see if they can pick up trash less expensively than the city can.
The council requested the audit to assure the public there was no wrongdoing in the division.
"I didn't think there was any, but I wanted this done so people in the community realized there was no impropriety in that department," said Mayor Stella Welsh.
Stevens suggested six ways the city could improve management of finances in the division, however.
- The assistant city manager failed to perform a review of budgets for the quarter ended March 31. That review would have picked up overspending in the division sooner, Stevens said.
- For the past two years the city manager has sent departments proposed budget allocations with instructions that department heads notify the manager only of any problems or changes.
"The Solid Waste operation management had concerns and questions but did not communicate them beyond the department level," Deloitte & Touche's report states.
Stevens said the city manager should meet with each department to review proposed budgets.
- In the past the Solid Waste division borrowed personnel from the landfill to cover manpower shortages. That was possible because the solid waste manager also served as manager of the landfill.
But, the division didn't track its use of landfill employees and thus underestimated its manpower needs in the 1991-92 budget.
Stevens recommended the city develop a policy for cross use of employees and equipment, as well as a method for charging costs to the proper accounts.
- The Public Works Department needs to maintain timecards for three years, as required by state law. The cards provide evidence that management reviewed and authorized employee hours reported each payroll period. Currently, the department keeps timecards for only one year.
- The division needs to record expenses in the year they occur. The division began attributing spring cleanup landfill charges that came in after the end of one year to the next year's budget. The division corrected that problem in 1992.
- The city's new garbage trucks have not been as productive as anticipated in budgeting for salaries and overtime pay. In fact, the city's trucks operate well below national and other local productivity rates.
That resulted in more overtime pay than the city planned in 1992.
Stevens said the city needs to determine why its productivity levels are lower. He proposed the city develop incentives for garbage truck drivers who increase productivity, either by paying a piece rate for tonnage picked up or for the number of stops made.