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City fuel costs, monitoring come under scrutiny
City Auditor Gary Nystul has issued a report on Bremerton’s lackluster monitoring of fuel purchases and usage.
The report follows up on a 2011 state audit that took exception with the city’s monitoring of more than $573,000 worth of fuel purchases. Nystul makes several recommendations in his report and notes that, “no response to the draft of the report was received from City management.”
Mayor Patty Lent this week said she has told the police department — which burned through 50,851 gallons of gas last year at a cost of $181,025 — to be more accountable when it comes to fuel-related issues.
“I’ve asked them to keep better mileage for all our police cars, for gasoline purchases and oil changes and maintenance,” Lent said.
The mayor also said that she has directed the fire department — which used 14,106 gallons of fuel at a cost of $55,509 — to make some changes.
“Fire tanks don’t get put in the [fuel tracking] software that the rest of city has and we’re looking at integrating usage for that software,” Lent said. “If council wanted me to do anything else, that would be a directive from council.”
Mayor Lent also highlighted some managerial changes in public works that she expects will lead to more accountability when it comes to fuel costs. For example, Lent said that fleet manager Jim Orton has also become the manager of the streets department.
“We had a few supervisors, and didn’t have just one, so we moved some of that responsibility and (Orton’s) taking that on and doing a very good job,” Lent said.
It’s clear from Nystul’s audit report that a lot of work remains.
“One person has not been assigned the responsibility for overall fuel management,” Nystul wrote, previously to the mayor’s actin this week. “The Equipment Services Division administers the fuel contract and does the monthly billing and administration. However, they do not have authority or responsibility to monitor use, fueling entries, consumption, or perform any analysis. A policy has not been established for this oversight.”
Nystul notes that department procedures are also lacking.
“An inquiry of department managers disclosed a variety of levels of monitoring,” Nystul wrote. “Some Managers look frequently at the fuel page and some do not look very often. In one instance a department is budgeted to pay for the fuel which is used by another agency and they have no knowledge of the use. In another instance, the department looks at their monthly cost but assumes another manager is reviewing use. One person should be in charge of the entire process to ensure accountability of all users.”
Nystul said that a review of more than 9,000 fuel purchases disclosed many errors by city employees entering odometer readings.
“Without accurate readings, computing miles per gallon and monitoring use is difficult,” Nystul said. “Part of the management oversight should include
accuracy of odometer readings. However, managers do not have reports with odometer readings that are readily available. Adding odometer readings to the fuel page would help make more complete data available for review.”
But that fuel web page, Nystul noted, is lacking in many ways and could be greatly improved. In addition, Nystul noted that the fire department’s fuel data isn’t downloaded to the page.
“The Department of Information Technology can easily make this addition if requested,” Nystul said.