Committee aims to see procurement policy is followed

The Dunkirk City Council’s finance committee discussed keeping a closer watch on following procurement policies. The discussion came up because the city is starting its budget process.

Councilwoman Stephanie Kiyak said, “If we are spending money in the city, we need to make sure that whatever the procurement policy is that it’s being followed.”

City Treasurer Mark Woods said, “We’re all familiar with it; maybe we should reinforce it with the department heads.”

Fiscal Affairs Officer Richard Halas said, “It’s not my decision.”

Kiyak said, “As the finance committee and as the legislative branch, we should be sending out a memo from our committee to the department heads reiterating what it (the policy) is and letting them know we want to see adequate documentation.”

City Attorney Ronald Szot suggested, “If the committee is going to send out a reminder, maybe it should be more inclusive rather than less inclusive. … Pretty much every employee does something relative to purchasing. It would be better for everyone to be aware of what the policy is.”

A discussion took place regarding whose responsibility it is to see that policy is followed.

Woods answered, “The department head should sign off; it’s the department head’s responsibility to say whether procedure has been followed.”

To help with the discussion, Szot reviewed with the committee the different ways goods and services are bought by the city. He explained that the most formal process is bidding where a proposal goes out and bids are opened. This is done for the most costly items or projects. In this case, the lowest responsible bidder is selected. However, Szot clarified for the committee that all bids can be rejected.

The second process is a request for proposal. While this type of buying is below the monetary amount of a bid situation, the city still wants to compare prices.

The third process is a quote. This is done for the least expensive items, and requires that three vendors are called. The person getting the quote should note information from each vendor.

Kiyak thought there should be additional documentation on purchase orders specifying the three quotes gotten from potential vendors.

Committee chairperson Michael Michalski and Kiyak disagreed about reviewing past action.

Kiyak said the review should go back 18 months.

Michalski said, “That doesn’t do any good.

Kiyak asked, “What do you mean it doesn’t do any good.”

Michalski said, “I don’t want to get a witch hunt going. … What good does it do? I want to get it right going forward. I’m not rehashing what’s been done.”

Kiyak said, “I disagree. It’s bad enough city employees don’t get an annual review. No one’s looking over your shoulder and if you find out things have been done for the past 30 years, you never get a slap on the hand? Nothing?”

Councilman William Rivera favored sending out a memo. He said, “Keep in mind the policy is there. We’re just sending out a friendly reminder. If you know this is coming you should realize you need to follow this. That’s your job and your department’s job.”

In the end Councilwoman Stacy Szukala summarized the course of action.

She said, “Let’s send out a memo. Have Lacey (Lawrence, city clerk) send it out to all employees. Have them be aware we are going to start enforcing it (procurement policy) to the best of our ability and that things need to come to the finance committee before the council meeting and go from there.”

Kiyak asked about additional documentation on purchase orders, and this was allowed. The new computer system (K.V.S.) might eliminate the need for this in the very near future.

Not much was to be said about the audit report issued by the New York State Comptroller at the Dunkirk City Council’s finance committee meeting held on Monday.

Committee chairman Councilman Michael Michalski said, “We don’t want to go into detail on the state audit. We’re going to have a separate meeting on just …”

“Exactly, exactly!” interrupted Fiscal Affairs Director Richard Halas. He then gave an example of one of the findings concerning payroll reconciliation, saying he now is reviewing records monthly.

Both Halas and City Treasurer Mark Woods agreed that the numbers found on the audit aren’t going to change but indicated that the management letter is being reviewed and a response will be crafted.

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