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Posted on: June 12, 2019

Grand Jury Concludes City Overspending Investigation

The Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury has completed its investigation into a series of purchasing errors made between 2012 and 2017 and has provided a report of its findings to the city of Modesto.  The investigation reports the city has made the necessary, significant changes in its purchasing division in order to ensure the same overspending does not occur in the future.  

Since 2017, upon staff discovering the errors, the city readily acknowledged its past oversights, including contracts that were paid past expiration dates and/or beyond their spending limits, lack of contract monitoring, lack of adequate training on contract system, outdated purchasing manuals, and lack of accountability on the standardized policies and procedures in place at the time.  At that time, staff began identifying the magnitude of the situation and immediately instituted critical changes.

The report found that 

•    City of Modesto staff is now properly trained;

•    Supervisory and managerial staff maintains accountability for approving all purchases;

•    Several high-level and interim positions within the city have now been filled;

•    The number of staff positions within the city currently meets the contract monitoring needs;

•    Staff now receive monthly training regarding standardized policies and procedures; 

•    The contracts administration system is now being fully utilized; and

•    Safeguards are in place to protect from overspending or paying on expired contracts;

In short, the grand jury investigation found that “issues which caused the underlying problems in the past years are being substantially addressed.”

“The city has made clear from day one that we accept responsibility for the errors made in our purchasing division, and we’ve made incredible progress toward a first-rate organization that monitors and accurately pays on its contracts,” said Modesto City Manager Joe Lopez.  “We are grateful for the grand jury’s time and efforts, and we’re proud of the strides it noticed we’ve taken in rectifying the problem areas.  We will continue to work toward rebuilding the public’s trust.”  

Among the findings, the investigation report noted that the purchasing procedures manual has not been revised since July 2009.  A revised manual is slated for implementation beginning July 1.  Also referenced is the vacant City Auditor position, which the city council intends to fill after a nationwide recruitment soon.  

A copy of the final report can be found here

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