Audit says Broward County (Fla.) district overpaid contractors

District auditor says Broward has spent $400,000 more on asphalt work since 2010 compared with similar jobs in nearby districts.

The Broward County (Fla.) School District paid far too much for asphalt for its athletic tracks and playgrounds and failed to get required permits, an internal audit has concluded.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the district's auditor found 47 invoices between 2010 and 2017 that paid $150 to $300 per hour for supervisors, laborers and installers. By contrast, the Palm Beach County district paid $15 to $45 per hour for a comparable project in 2016.

Chief Auditor Patrick Reilly says the district spent $400,000 more than it would have on labor and materials if it had paid rates similar to other school systems.

The district’s Physical Plant Operations Department allowed contractors to mark up materials prices by as much as 150 percent, the audit says. Palm Beach and Orange County schools restricted markups to 10 percent during similar time frames.

The markups meant that Pence Sealcoating Corp. was paid $12,875 in one instance for materials that cost $5,150 last year and more than $24,000 for materials costing $10,700 three years earlier, the audit says.

Sam Bays, the director of the department, contended that that the hourly wages included services in addition to labor, such as equipment.

But Reilly said he was told the opposite during audit research. The report comes as the Broward district prepares to begin work on renovations covered by an $800 million bond approved in 2014. And it comes despite a grand jury report in 2011 that blasted the district for widespread mismanagement within its facilities department.

“I want to make sure that we don’t repeat past mistakes,” says Board member Robin Bartleman. “We have to be accountable to taxpayers.”

Board member Nora Rupert says the board should reconsider enlisting an inspector general to oversee bond spending. The board had opted not to do so to avoid incurring a $2 million price tag.

“We need to make sure that every T is crossed and I is dotted and there should be no deviation at this point,” Rupert says. “After three years of passing the bond, here we are. My expectation is that we should be a well-oiled machine.”

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