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Audit finds weakness in tracking of equipment deployed for Superstorm Sandy

ALBANY - Nearly half of $1.2 million in equipment purchased by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) to keep polling stations open after Superstorm Sandy was not received, not recovered or not properly disposed of, according to an audit by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. He recommended that DHSES improve how it purchases and tracks equipment during emergencies.

The audit is the first in a series of state audits in the wake of the massive storm. The audits primarily examine whether state agencies received goods and services at the appropriate price. DiNapoli’s office also tracks Superstorm Sandy contracts on its website.

“During any emergency, New Yorkers rely on state government to provide the resources necessary to restore order in an otherwise chaotic situation. DHSES and other state agencies deserve credit for quickly stepping up and helping the people impacted by this massive storm,” DiNapoli said. “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. Our audit shows DHSES has some work to do here, but the agency is moving in the right direction.”

DHSES purchased $1.2 million in generators, lights and heaters for election polling stations following the fall 2012 storm. DiNapoli’s auditors found that DHSES did not effectively account for this equipment prior to distribution, sufficiently track it or develop a plan to get the equipment back.

DiNapoli recommended that DHSES:

  • 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;  
  • Reassess its decision to not recover missing equipment.

DHSES generally agreed with the audit findings. Officials noted that after Election Day, some of the equipment was distributed to firehouses for further Sandy relief, while they focused on recovering higher-cost equipment. DHSES acknowledged it needs to strengthen its practices and procedures. The 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.