Audit finds NCDOT owes Durham $38,000

jwise@newsobserver.comMay 4, 2013 

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City auditors have found lax overtime oversight in the water department, and almost $38,000 in overdue stormwater fees the state Department of Transportation owes the city.

There was no evidence of overtime fraud or abuse, according to the auditors’ report, and City Manager Tom Bonfield has asked the city attorney and Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson to investigate whether Durham has authority to make NCDOT pay up.

The city’s audit department prepared the overtime ( bit.ly/YnxQ4a) and stormwater ( bit.ly/ZAxVQX) reports, which the City Council will discuss Thursday.

Overall, auditors found Stormwater Services “effective” in its billing and collecting processes, but in checking delinquent accounts they found DOT to be in arrears $37,993. Moreover, the account had not been billed since August 2011 at, according to stormwater staff, direction from the city manager’s office.

“The account has received no payment, has not been billed to the customer, incurs no interest or late fees, and has not been sent to the collections company for proper collections action since it was placed on hold,” the report states.

The auditors suggested City Hall look into the matter.

“Nobody even talked to me about it,” Bonfield said last week. He said he had assumed North Carolina custom was like that he knew from his earlier city-manager positions in Florida, where local governments routinely billed the state and school systems for stormwater fees that were routinely never paid.

The auditors reported that stormwater services was collecting 98 percent of the fees owed it. However, they found more than $1 million in fees more than 90 days overdue and advised the division to start cutting off water-sewer service to encourage payment. The “cutoff option,” it seemed, had not been standard operating procedure.

Stormwater management agreed with the recommendations.

In the water department, the auditors found inadequate documentation for why some employees received large amounts of overtime pay – including one Utility System Supervisor paid $43,248 for overtime in 2012, 75 percent as much as the supervisor’s base salary.

Of the city’s 25 employees paid the most in overtime, 12 were in the water department. The auditors suggested the water department improve its procedures for documenting why overtime is necessary, what work is done, and approval ahead of time.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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