Toronto’s audit committee wants the city to crack down on improper untendered purchases after a Star investigation revealed staff disobeyed rules and made millions in purchases before getting approval.
“I hope this sends a clear message to our staff that they need to abide by our purchasing policies, and to our managers that they need to be accountable for what happens beneath you,” Councillor Josh Matlow said.
The Star found staff had improperly approved purchases worth nearly $2.5 million since 2009, with nearly $1 million of that since Mayor Rob Ford took office.
At Thursday’s meeting, the committee unanimously agreed to recommend council direct the city manager to review the findings from the Star’s investigation.
“This has been going on right under the nose of council for years,” said Matlow, who crafted the motion alongside Auditor General Jeffrey Griffiths.
“This seems to be an ongoing problem. We need to get answers for that.”
City policy says staff must get authorization before they spend money without seeking competitive bids — so-called sole-source purchasing.
However, several departments have repeatedly made purchases before getting approval. Parks, forestry and recreation tops the list, having made 21 unapproved purchases in the past two years.
One of those was hiring a tai chi instructor for $3,674 while council searched for “gravy” to cut a budget deficit.
The auditor general said there are already far too many reports detailing the necessity of following purchasing procedures, including the Bellamy report into the MFP computer leasing scandal.
“I’m not doing anymore reports. It’s time for someone to take responsibility for these issues,” Griffiths said.
Toronto’s purchasing division created a log tracking the city’s “inappropriate” or “significant non-compliant” purchases following a 2009 auditor general report that found staff paying vendors for work before receiving the necessary approval.
“It’s completely frustrating that it’s not been fixed,” he said.
There are circumstances in which sole sourcing is acceptable, such as emergencies, tight time constraints or when a vendor has an unmatched expertise. Policy states that staff must fill out a purchase order form clearly detailing why a purchase can’t be put to competitive bids.
The reasons for the inappropriate purchases range from administrative errors to the work being completed before the paperwork is processed, a city spokesperson said.
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