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Westbury Water District cited in audit for lack of purchase orders, bids

Westbury Water District storage tank on Grand Boulevard,

Westbury Water District storage tank on Grand Boulevard, Oct. 3, 2007. Credit: Newsday / Ken Sawchuk

The Westbury Water District failed to require the use of purchase orders for goods and services, an audit by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office concluded.

Additionally, the district “did not always seek competition for goods and services that fell below the bidding thresholds and when selecting professional service providers,” according to the audit released Tuesday.

Officials of the district — which serves more than 20,500 customers in a five-square-mile area and has a $5 million budget — disagreed.

In a written response attached to the audit, they accepted many of the audit’s recommendations but rejected others.

“The board only uses a purchase order system for a limited number of purchases and will look at expanding that system,” district officials wrote, adding that they would incorporate some of the audit’s suggestions into the process.

They said, however, that they “will not be subject to a request for proposal process [or a] competitive bidding process” for professional services.

“When it comes to professional services it is the knowledge and skills of the professional ... that is at issue and how that knowledge and skill set fits the needs of the Board and the District,” according to the response. “The final determination will always relate more to the specialized skills and training than it will to the price.

District officials pointed out that the board is permitted to establish circumstances when soliciting additional proposals would not be in the best interest of the district.

“Our Board has followed the law and in our opinion has made the best choice for our district,” officials concluded.

DiNapoli’s representatives, in a reply to the district’s response, said they “believe it was not in the best interest of District residents to not seek competition when acquiring professional services. The fact that a local practice may be permissible under a statute does not necessarily mean the practice is a good one.

“It is our view that the solicitation of competitive proposals is an effective way to ensure the District receives the desired services on the most favorable terms and conditions without favoritism, extravagance, fraud or corruption,” DiNapoli’s reply stated.

But District Superintendent John R. Ingram, in an interview Wednesday, said that “until the state legislature decides to change the law, the comptroller should stop citing people for not doing it [what the comptroller’s office would like.]”

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