Audit shows Allegheny County Public Works delinquent in paying contractors
By Rick Wills
Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013, 2:24 p.m.
Allegheny County's Department of Public Works paid contractors as much as a year late in some instances, partly because it failed to seek state and federal reimbursements to which it was entitled, an audit found.
“We are still getting requests from contractors who have not been paid. We have 15 to 20 contractors regularly call our office,” said county Controller Chelsa Wagner, whose office conducted the audit released Thursday.
Wagner said many calls come from small businesses experiencing financial problems because of late payments. If they cannot rely on timely payments, she said, “then in many cases they are effectively shut out from doing business with the county.”
This year, Public Works has a capital budget of about $84 million and an operating budget of about $19 million.
County officials did not dispute the results of the audit, covering January 2009 through December 2011, but said it largely fixed the problem of paying contractors on time.
Public Works Director Steven Johnson, on the job since March, said late payments resulted from funding problems and delayed payments from PennDOT.
“These have been timing issues only. (The department) has never defaulted on any of its contractual obligations and has no intention of ever doing so,” Johnson said in a letter to Wagner.
Many problems the report identified were corrected late last year, when the county issued bonds for the 2012 and 2013 capital programs and improved its process of obtaining money owed from PennDOT, Johnson said.
One contractor, owed $1.5 million when Johnson arrived, now is owed $395,000, according to county officials.
“We believe that many of the issues in the audit have been resolved. The audit confirmed what the county executive told me about the situation when I was hired,” Johnson said.
Wagner did not agree, insisting, “I still have frequent and regular requests to help expedite payment.” The department requested only 54 percent of the reimbursement PennDOT owed it, she said.
She did not know the total amount Public Works owes contractors, saying, “That information is not available to us.”
The administration said it couldn't immediately provide that amount.
Wagner did not identify contractors who have experienced problems with the department, but mentioned one company with annual revenue of $6 million that was owed $1 million from the county for more than a year.
A sampling of the Public Works Department's invoices revealed that 66 percent of payments to contractors were not made on time and 16 percent were more than six months late.
Rick Wills is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Panthers free agent safety headed to Steelers
- Orpik rises to occasion as Penguins take down Capitals once again
- Figure skating coach dies in crash at Washington County Airport
- Police charge Westmoreland County priest in $124,000 theft case
- Penguins notebook: Letang skating, but no return set
- Starkey: No shame for Robert Morris
- Can Pirates star outfielder McCutchen be even better in 2014?
- Obamacare dramatically increases costs for some small businesses
- Pitt aware of Carolina schools’ history in dominating ACC Tournament
- Peduto takes down Pittsburgh’s Redd Up crew
- Memo confirms VA Pittsburgh officials knew of Legionella threat early on