An Eye on Awareness

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Whether it is contract monitoring, inventory control, or preventing the loss of Department of Transportation (department) resources such as equipment, fuel, or material supplies, recognizing when something is not right is critical. Maintaining awareness and taking action can make a big difference. To prove the point, here are just a few examples of awareness, which I am sure we can all appreciate.

In a recent investigation, a precast supplier delivered concrete drainage structures to two jobsites without first providing required certifications to the prime contractors. The supplier also failed to stamp the structures, certifying they had been through their department approved Quality Control process, and then delivered them to the jobsites without the required delivery tickets. A routine audit by the Office of Materials (OM) discovered these issues. The Office of Construction (OC) then got involved and required the prime contractors to correct the problem. Our investigation disclosed the Construction Engineering and Inspection (CEI) consultants on both projects were aware of the missing certifications and delivery tickets, and still allowed the structures to be installed. It is clear the OM and OC did the right thing when the noncompliance was discovered. It is equally clear the CEIs should have been more attentive in their efforts to inspect materials placed on the projects and act assertively to have the issues addressed.

We have recently looked into issues of the alleged theft of department fuel. Fuel is clearly a valuable commodity and one that we should scrutinize closely. We are fortunate that in this age of technology, we have the benefit of computerized fuel usage reports and surveillance video to help us monitor the consumption of fuel. Those of us whose responsibility it is to oversee fuel usage should take the time to look at these records for ‘red flags’ such as fuel dispensed to a vehicle beyond the vehicle’s fuel capacity, or the amount of fuel being dispensed is not consistent with the miles driven. Also, take the time to view surveillance video to determine if fuel is being dispensed in accordance with related department policies.

In a case where the improper use of department materials came into question, we had the opportunity to look at the inventory practices of a department facility. Our department has several warehouses and shops that maintain supplies of material necessary to produce needed products, such as signs and manufactured parts for bridges and bridge repairs. These warehouses and shops are required to conduct inventories to reconcile incoming raw materials to outgoing production. The importance of these inventories is in part to identify material loss, which is sometimes referred to as ‘shrinkage.’ When shrinkage is discovered, it could be an indicator of poor record keeping or possibly theft. When discrepancies are discovered, managers should take the opportunity to reevaluate their inventory controls to identify areas for improvement. Compliance with the department’s policies and procedures on inventories is one of the best ways to identify these issues. Of course, if theft is suspected, we encourage you to contact the Office of Inspector General.

We all have different job responsibilities, but the one thing that is the same for all of us is our responsibility to observe and remain aware. When you come across or see something you know is not right, take action; it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing!


Article by Howard Greenfield, Director of Investigations