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State audit: Inadequate tracking of equipment deployed after Sandy

The office of New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli

The office of New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says in a recent state audit report that some of the equipment deployed by the Department of Homeland Security after superstorm Sandy is still unaccounted for. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

The state homeland security and emergency services division failed to adequately track or recover almost half the $1.2 million in equipment it purchased to keep polling stations open in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Rockland counties after superstorm Sandy.

An audit released Friday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office found some of the equipment -- portable LED lights, portable heaters and 103 of 811 generators purchased -- remains missing. The audit recommends the agency recover the missing items or seek reimbursement for them.

The audit said nearly half the equipment was either not received, not recovered, or not properly disposed of. It recommends the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services improve how it procures, tracks and makes plans to recover inventory purchased during future emergencies.

"DHSES did not effectively account for the lights, heaters or generators prior to their distribution, effectively track their location during the emergency, or develop a plan to recover them until after the equipment was distributed to firehouses and other locations," Director of State Expenditures Bernard J. McHugh wrote DHSES Commissioner Jerome M. Hauer Friday.

"Then, contrary to the plan to recover all the lights, heaters and generators DHSES sought to recover only the generators."

DHSES also did not maintain any records to show it received all the equipment it paid for, the audit said. As a result, it paid $562,000 for equipment that was either never received, disposed of contrary to state finance law, or was not recovered.

DHSES generally agreed with the audit findings. Officials noted that after Election Day some of the items were distributed to firehouses for further Sandy relief while the agency focused on recovering higher-cost equipment.

In response to the audit, Hauer wrote that DHSES was proud of its Sandy response and "believes it acted responsibly in the procurement, deployment and recovery of resources related to Superstorm Sandy."

The state engaged consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers to build on "knowledge gained" during Sandy and to recommend improvements in how it stockpiles, procures, tracks and deploys disaster-related resources in the future.

Since Sandy, the division had overhauled its receiving and procurement procedures and new technology is being implemented, including for inventory management to track items using GPS devices.

The division had in its possession, or otherwise accounted for, 708 of the 811 generators.

In total it purchased 1,000 portable lights and 1,000 portable heaters, but it determined the cost of recovery, testing and storage of most of them -- compared to their relatively low unit cost -- "argued for a lower priority for recovery."

Responding to that, the comptroller's office noted 143 generators remained "accounted for but not yet recovered;" that DHSES should seek and recover the 103 still missing; and that it had provided no information about the cost/benefit or condition of the lights. "Accordingly, we recommend DHSES should reassess the decision not to recover the lights."

The division could not immediately provide details of which DHSES items were supplied to Nassau and Suffolk.

In January, Newsday reported the Federal Emergency Management Agency had declined to reimburse Nassau County $48,231 for 75 of 105 generators it separately purchased as backup for voting machines on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2012, less than 10 days after Sandy hit. The county bought the 105, but then didn't need to use 75 of them after power was restored to those areas in time.

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