Modesto looks at spending reforms

Modesto officials want to put more sunlight on city contracts to avoid the kind of mistakes that led to a string of embarrassing purchasing errors from 2002 to 2005.

Some of the changes listed Tuesday by City Manager Greg Nyhoff include:

  • Consolidating spending in Purchasing Division instead of giving departments leeway in when to go through a more detailed bidding process
  • Grouping repeat purchases in a single master contract, such as asphalt or cement
  • Publishing annual reports showing what the city spends on its more than 400 blanket contracts for vendors that continually provide the city with materials or services
  • Requiring city employees to get multiple quotes for expenses of more than $500. This could happen with phone calls or a more time-consuming bidding procedure.

    The three City Council members who sit on Modesto's Audit Committee seemed pleased with the proposals.

    "We are far better than it was in the past, but we are not 100 percent," Nyhoff said.

    His report followed up on a June audit that identified purchasing errors in Modesto's Public Works Department from 2002 to 2005, such as failing to track contracts that should have gone to the council and reporting spending in incorrect accounts.

    The audit came after a January 2006 review that concluded that Public Works violated city spending procedures when it built a maintenance building without the council's knowledge or consent.

    "We want the clear expectation for everyone in the organization to be conscious of whose money we're spending," Councilwoman Janice Keating said.

    Nyhoff and Purchasing Manager Mark Averell said they'd continue to update the council on purchasing reforms.

    Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.