The Key Peninsula Fire Department is updating its purchasing practices after receiving a management letter from the Washington State Auditor’s Office.
A management letter is the first level of action taken by the auditor when an area is found that needs to be corrected or improved, according to Fire Chief Guy Allen. The correction needed is in the purchasing practices of the department, specifically the audit found that the department did not receive enough bids on new equipment to meet the minimum requirement set by the state.
“Things that cost more have more rules applied to them,” Allen explained. “For me it’s really just been a process of learning the requirements for purchasing the larger ticket items.”
He added that the state requires three price quotes before a purchase is made, which is the area in the audit — which looked at the procurement and processing in 2016 — that resulted in the management letter.
Things that cost more ... have more rules applied to them. For me it’s really just been a process of learning the requirements for purchasing the larger ticket items.
Guy Allen, Key Peninsula Fire Chief
“Two times we didn’t get enough quotes and another is being disputed,” Allen said. “It’s not like we had anyone stealing money. We just didn’t follow the state’s exact process for making the purchasing.”
Two purchases — for tough book tablet computers used for electronic patient care reporting and the replacement of old defibrillators — only had two price quotes instead of the required three. The third purchase — of two water trucks — the department is disputing because its attorney believes that the proper procedure was followed by the department in the use of a purchasing co-op.
The department is working on updating its purchasing guidelines — including implementing a new purchasing matrix — and training for all staff who make purchases, Allen said.
“It really is not so much any changes to what we’re doing,” he said “But it is a redirection to get our people, including myself, trained on what the rules are out there.”
I’ve always wanted to be completely transparent. That’s why I posted about the letter on Facebook. There were no findings. I don’t want to trivialize it by saying it’s a slap on the wrist, but there are no penalties.
Allen’s biggest regret is that this letter marks the end of an 18-year run of clean audits for the department.
“I feel bad for the organization, being the responsible party and causing the management letter,” he said. “My fingers touch all three of the ones that came up.”
Since starting his tenure as fire chief in 2014, Allen said that he works to balance the financial stewardship of the department with the requirements of the state auditor’s office, not wanting to waste employee time or resources. He added that his desire for transparency is what prompted him to release the results of the audit in his weekly update March 19 on the department’s Facebook page.
“I’ve always wanted to be completely transparent. That’s why I posted about the letter on Facebook,” he said. “There were no findings. I don’t want to trivialize it by saying it’s a slap on the wrist, but there are no penalties.”