DENVER - Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher says the Department of General Services isn't doing a good job of monitoring service contracts.
In a scathing audit released Friday morning, Gallagher said the department’s failure to effectively oversee citywide service contracts “puts the city at risk of paying for services that were never delivered."
He also said, “There’s a bleed on tax dollars in that agency that has to be plugged up.”
Citing the city’s janitorial services contract, Gallagher said his staff also found problems where wages weren’t being paid properly.
The Executive Director of General Services, Adrienne Benavidez, disputes that her department has been lax in monitoring contracts.
"I don't think we're lax,” she said. “Can we improve? Yes."
Benavidez said that after the pay problems were brought to her department’s attention, they changed the way they administer the contract.
When asked if the city is paying for services it’s not receiving, Benavidez said, "There's nothing stated in the audit about that, so I don’t know specifics.” She added that “The Auditor’s news release stated the city is at risk for paying for services (not received.)”
The audit also found that the city's use of a single vendor for some service contracts may limit the city's leverage in acquiring quality service at the best price, and may reduce support for minority and women owned businesses. Benavidez disagrees.
She said there are competing priorities and competing values that the city has to weigh when signing each contract.
“We are stewards of the public’s money,” she said. “That’s one value. Another value is that in this city, everyone needs to have an opportunity.”
She says in some instances, like elevator maintenance, a single vendor makes sense. She said the current vendor has access to parts from a thousand suppliers and said that’s important when you’re dealing with as many buildings of various ages and with as many types of elevators as Denver is.
"We use this contract because they can service any elevator. We don't want down time. We don't want people stuck in elevators," she said. "It makes sense where they can do emergency services 24/7 around the clock."
The head of General Services said in other instances it makes more sense to have multiple vendors. She cited the city’s towing contracts as an example.
“We have five vendors for that service,” she said, “one for each quadrant of the city and one for others.
Benavidez says the city acknowledges that it has not done enough to utilize minority and female-owned vendors, but says the city did a disparity study which identified the problem.
“As a result,” she said, “we’ve implemented major program revisions that the Mayor has signed off on. One includes a brand new ordinance to address small minority and women owned vendors usage on city contracts.”
She said the city now has a four point plan on how to address the issue.
“I commend (the Auditor’s) staff for undertaking this audit and for the work they did,” Benavidez said. “Obviously there is a difference of opinion on how you can address this.”
Gallagher said General Services needs more staff to oversee the city’s contracts.
Benavidez replied, “We will have an internal team look at current processes and as we evaluate those, we’ll make that determination.”