Almost half of the $1.2 million in equipment the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services purchased to keep polling stations open after Superstorm Sandy was not received, not recovered or not disposed of properly, according to an audit today by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The state agency bought generators, lights and heaters for election polling stations following the fall 2012 storm, but it didn’t effectively account for the equipment prior to its distribution, adequately track it or have a plan for getting it back.
DiNapoli credited the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, as well as other state agencies, for “quickly stepping up and helping the people impacted by this massive storm.
“While some equipment will undoubtedly get lost or damaged during a disaster, taxpayers appropriately expect that the state has protocols to account for equipment purchased and recover what was left in the field,” the comptroller said in a statement. “Our audit shows DHSES has some work to do here, but the agency is moving in the right direction.”
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services audit is the first in a series of reviews of state agencies and will examine primarily whether they received goods and services at the appropriate price after Superstorm Sandy. The comptroller’s office also tracks Superstorm Sandy contracts on its website.
DiNapoli said the agency should improve how it purchases and tracks equipment during emergencies and reassess its decision not to recover missing equipment. Other recommendations include:
— Maintain appropriate documentation to support equipment procurement and receiving.
— Develop a plan to account for, track and recover or dispose of all equipment and commodities purchased during future emergencies.
— Recover outstanding generators or seek reimbursement for items not returned.
— Recoup any payments for equipment that was not delivered.
The agency generally agreed with the audit’s findings, DiNapoli said. After Election Day, some of the equipment was distributed to firehouses. The state focused on recovering higher-cost equipment.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget includes an additional 20 full-time staff, including auditors, for disaster response. DHSES has also engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to help improve its management of disaster-related resources through a $10 million management consulting contract with the state. Lawmakers have until April 1, the start of the new fiscal year, to negotiate and finalize a budget.
(Journal News file photo of a rented RV parked outside Grand View Village Hall for voting in this week’s village elections. Village hall was condemned due to Superstorm Sandy.)