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Friday, September 16, 2005

The Dirt on Sanitation

I live in a neighborhood that is known for its high taxes. Of course, many would be quick to point out that the level of service we get for our taxes makes it worth the money. But this article suggests a more nefarious use of some of our tax dollars:
Mismanagement in Sanitary District 1 in Lawrence has created an opportunity for "unparalleled" fraud, according to a report released yesterday by the Nassau County comptroller's office.

The report, based on an incomplete audit, slammed the district for everything from improper timekeeping records to "unreasonable" bills for out-of-state conferences.

...Among the highlights of Weitzman's report were bills for more than $14,000 for two conferences in New Orleans and Dallas. The 2003 New Orleans conference, which was attended by four district managers, included a $676 tab for dinner at Morton's Steakhouse.

The conferences also included $536 in limousine service, $710 in "questionable" hotel bar charges and $643 for various expenses that did not have receipts. The district has a $14.3 million budget.

"Obviously it looks bad," said Nat Swergold, attorney for the district. "Maybe the bill should have been $100 less. But we're talking about a $14 million budget and they're picking out little items here and there."

...Payroll calculations by auditors for the first pay period of June 2004 did not match the district's, the report said, with 50 percent of union members' base salaries exceeding the collective bargaining agreement pay scale. Supporting worksheets for the payroll were not provided because the district said they had disposed of them.

Another problem, auditors found, was that the district allows contractors to dump waste, landscaping and construction debris at the district's transfer station, but only accepts cash for the service. More than $800,000 was collected each year from 2003 to 2004, but recording of those receipts was weak and auditors found instances where scale records did not match cash register records.

..."Each one is an area of concern," Weitzman said of the report's key points. "But put enough together and it not only raised a flag, it toots a horn."
Sounds to me like there's some serious recycling going on here - and I'm talking about cash, not bottles and cans.


Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

Although many of the dollar figures are small, keep in mind that this may be the tip of the iceberg. As the article states:

"District 1 was the worst of the lot, Weitzman said, and his office pulled out of their audit in June after only three months due to what he said was a lack of cooperation."

10:44 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

"Unparalleled fraud" is a scary term.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Most fraud is easier to be done on $100 items... to excuse it like he did is ridiculous. The markup on things like that is huge - it's easier to double the price of small items than to raise the ticket on large items.
Also key to remember is that audits only look at a tiny percentage of all the expenses (I just started auditing in college). That they found all this and came to that conclusion so quickly means a huge problem.

2:52 PM  
Blogger AS said...

I hope some heads role in Nassau. I'm sick of these high taxes.

10:43 PM  
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