The state Labor Department failed to maintain records on building boilers and asbestos remediation projects needing inspection, which may jeopardize public health and safety, according to an audit released today by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The agency also failed to collect $3.8 million from building owners who had boilers inspected, asbestos abatement contractors and employers that failed to comply with workplace safety rules, the audit found.
DiNapoli’s auditors reviewed the fees collected by the Labor Department with the highest reported revenue — boiler inspections, public work enforcement and asbestos abatement — for a three-year period ending March 31, 2011. During that time, the agency collected a total of $79.2 million in all fees and penalties, $70.7 million was for the three highest fees.
“The Department of Labor is not collecting all the fees and payments it should because it lacks complete information on items and activities that must be inspected to ensure public safety, such as boilers in apartment buildings. By not having a complete record of boilers throughout the state, the public is at risk of faulty boilers that may go uninspected and the state is losing out on inspection-related revenues,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
While most asbestos abatement contractors follow the self-notification process and paid the state the project notification fee, the Labor Department has no method for determining whether there are other contractors that should be paying the fee, or how much the fee should be, the audit found. Contractors whose projects meet the minimum size pay up to $4,000 for a project notification fee, depending on the amount of asbestos.
The audit said there are other fees the Labor Department is not tracking. Each state agency or public benefit corporation that enters into a public work contract (there are more than 10,000 each year) is required to pay one-tenth of 1 percent of the total contract cost to the Public Work Enforcement Fund. But only eight of the more than 500 state and local authorities reported public work projects between April 1, 2008 and Feb. 7, 2011, the audit said. They paid $8.5 million to the state. Eleven of 16 large public authorities that hadn’t remitted any money had not contributed the required $535,576 to the fund.
The Labor Department has begun implementing recommendations in the audit, DiNapoli said, including assessing penalties on all late boiler inspection fee payments, collecting all boiler inspection revenues due and identifying and ensuring public authorities are paying into the Public Work Enforcement Fund.