Pittsburgh mayor’s office, controller disagree over costs of renovations
June 16, 2016 12:18 AM
Mayor Bill Peduto in his office.
City Controller Michael Lamb
By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
An audit of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s office showed the mayor spent more than a quarter of a million dollars renovating his office two years ago, but the mayor disputes that assertion, saying only a fraction of that amount was spent.
The audit, released Wednesday by city Controller Michael Lamb, found no major issues, but it sparked a fight.
Mr. Lamb’s office reviewed the mayor’s budgets, his executive team and the office’s Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment from 2013-15. Auditors also evaluated the city’s process for accepting monetary and capital asset donations and the status of city board appointments.
The controller’s office last conducted a performance audit of the mayor’s office in 2009.
The majority of findings centered on a 2014 renovation of the mayor’s office and a donation of furniture by IKEA.
According to the audit, city employees were used for plumbing, carpentry, painting and other skilled labor in the renovation, which cost the city money because of other projects not being completed and overtime.
For more than a year, auditors sought records from the city Department of Public Works for the total cost of labor, but the office provided only the number of hours worked and the material cost, the audit said.
As a result, auditors were able to come up with a “conservative” estimate by calculating the 2014 budgeted hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours worked. They also had to estimate the cost of overtime, based on interviews with workers.
“The auditors were told by construction employees that plenty of overtime occurred on these renovation projects,” said the audit, which pegged the total cost of labor at about $239,679. With the cost of material, the project was estimated to top out at $283,156. “In fact, statements were made that some city employees worked 7 days a week,” the report noted.
Mr. Peduto’s office disputed the calculations, saying the renovation cost only a fraction of the audit estimate.
“The report includes claims that city laborers worked 1,734 hours on painting the mayor’s office, a number that is not physically possible,” said mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty. “That roughly translates into 10.5 months of painting. It also claims that carpenters spent 4,928 hours working on the mayor’s office. If this were the case, the work would still be ongoing as this is approximately 2.5 years of work.
“The biggest error in the report is the unsupported claim that $283,156 was spent on the mayor’s office renovations. In actuality, the projects cost less than one-sixth of that amount, or a total of $43,477, and is far smaller than investments made by the Peduto administration in fire and police stations.”
Mr. McNulty acknowledged that the city could improve its record-keeping and said Mr. Peduto ordered the Public Works Department to begin using new software last year that better tracks spending.
And, as of Jan. 1, the city instituted a policy that requires renovation or construction projects of more than $10,000 to receive approval from the city Office of Management and Budget.
“While the mayor’s office disagreed with our findings, they were not an error,” Mr. Lamb said. “We stand behind the audit based on the information provided to us by the Public Works Department.”
The audit recommends better record keeping for labor hours and construction costs to include details of what was spent and where.
The audit also was critical of the city’s lack of records regarding a donation of furniture and appliances from IKEA for renovations of the mayor’s lounge — part of the 2014 project.
Auditors said they received an IKEA invoice detailing $10,078 in promotional donations, including a kitchenette, rug, lighting and furniture. The audit recommended adopting a formal policy to track and investigate all donations of cash, furniture or other goods.
“The mayor’s office audit uncovered instances where processes were either nonexistent or ignored. For example, in accepting donations to the city whether actual funding or items such as artwork or office fixtures, there was no consistent process of accepting those grants and donations,” Mr. Lamb said.
Among the other findings were recommendations to more promptly fill personnel and board vacancies and to secure grants before adding them to the city budget. The audit lauded the administration for its efforts to improve transparency.
Janice Crompton: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1159 or on Twitter @janicecrompton.
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