Half of the contracts cited in the audit were piggybacks. And all of them went above and beyond the terms of the original. In one, for example, the technology department took an existing city contract for computer hardware and peripherals and used it to order high-definition televisions and digital cameras.
In another, the department joined a Los Angeles contract that was about to expire, then kept using it for three more years.
The idea of piggybacking is to get a better price by joining a bigger contract. ``It is not,'' the audit noted, ``intended as a shortcut to the competitive vendor selection process.''
The audit also found a breakdown in the oversight of contracts after they had been signed.
In three-quarters of the purchases the audit reviewed, for example, technology staffers had ordered and received something before they even filled out a purchase order for it.
In one case, auditors found a packing slip dated April 21, an invoice dated April 23, and the purchase request dated May 7. ``In other words,'' the audit stated, ``staff appears to be ordering goods without first obtaining formal approval.''
Contract managers, the audit found, also were not documenting that goods or services had been received before they approved the payments. The audit found no invoices that had been inappropriately paid; but the process, it noted, ``does not ensure that contract administrators are actually verifying goods and services have been received.''
The audit, performed by Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting of Sacramento, recommended an entirely new written purchasing policy for the airport agency. It also called for better training in contract procedures and greater oversight of contracts, especially piggybacked ones.
``We initiated this audit,'' said Samson Mengistu, acting executive director of Los Angeles airports. ``We want to fix the things that are issues. We learned a lesson from this.''
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