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Council collaborates on audit of Southwest 1-4

By Staff | Dec 2, 2008

The Cape Coral City Council began to frame the parameters Monday for a request for proposals for an audit of the Southwest 1-4 portion of the utilities expansion project, although no official action was taken.
Council members voted unanimously in August to contract an independent auditor to conduct the forensic audit, but the purpose and scope of the project were never explicitly stated.
Some council members want to ensure the new audit includes reviews of two previous audits of the UEP, the controversial Townsend and Kessler audits. Other council members want to limit that aspect as a way of cutting the scope, and thereby, the cost of the audit.
“If one of the auditors we wanted to use didn’t ask for the previous audits, I wouldn’t consider them,” Councilmember Pete Brandt said.
“They’re time is our pocketbook. I don’t want to pay it again for the third or fourth time. They can look at it on their own time, but I don’t want to be billed for it,” Councilmember Dolores Bertolini countered.
R. L. Townsend & Associates was commissioned by the city council in 2004 to conduct an audit, and Kessler International followed with another audit in 2006.
Council members at that time voted not to allow the Kessler audit to be completed, and instead a Kessler report was issued that alleged bid rigging on the part of MWH, the firm overseeing the UEP.
City Manager Terry Stewart noted no wrongdoing has been uncovered by either of the previous audits.
“There was the Townsend audit, and the Kessler report. Neither that complaint nor any audit has revealed any illegal activity,” Stewart said.
Mayor Jim Burch said the review of past audits does not have to be expressly written into the audit request for proposals, but would be done as a matter of course.
“I would agree with both of you (Brandt and Bertolini). Those documents would be available with both of them,” Burch said.
Councilmember Bill Deile said he wants the audit to target the UEP, which brings water, sewer and irrigation utilities to individual areas and neighborhoods, as opposed to the facilities expansion project, which updates and increases the capacity of the utilities’ infrastructure.
“In the interests of costs, I think we should pare it down. I think we’re focusing here more on the UEP part than the FEP (facilities expansion project) part. My suggestion, my recommendation, is to limit it to the UEP, at least for now,” Deile said.
Councilmember Tim Day was also leery of the audit’s cost, and expressed doubts about the need for the project given the two previous audits.
“It may even be a futile thing, this audit. I don’t even know if I’m going to vote on it. You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to make a couple of people happy,” Day said.
City auditor Dona Newman will take the council’s suggestions and form a draft of the audit’s request for proposals. The issue could come up again at a committee of the whole, or informal discussion meeting, or as an administrative discussion item during an official council meeting.
“I’m going to weave into the document their recommendations,” Newman said.
When the issue will be taken up again is unclear. There are only two council meetings left, set for Monday and Dec. 15, before the end of the year.