NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - An investigation by the Jefferson Parish Inspector General’s Office concluded that outdated policies for parish government’s expense allowances are costing taxpayers unnecessary money.
Inspector General David McClintock said his office’s investigation also found a lack of proper authorization, and the parish could save approximately $117,800 per year by taking corrective actions for cell phone and miscellaneous expense allowances.
“Well, 135 parish employees receive a cell phone allowance,” McClintock said. “That equates to about $13,290 bucks a month that the parish pays in cell phones.”
McClintock said by giving elected officials and certain parish employees an allowance to get a cell phone for government business, the parish is paying approximately double the cost it would incur if it secured cell phones on its own from national providers.
“The parish needs to reevaluate what they’re doing," McClintock said. “They need to make sure that it’s fair market value. If we can get the same service from a national provider for $50 an employee a month, then that’s the maximum that we should be paying in an allowance model.”
Additionally, McClintock said during the investigation of cell phone expenses, his team found a separate monthly miscellaneous expense allowance of $450 to the parish president and $350 for each member of the parish council.
That expense alone totals $34,800 a year, according to the inspector general.
And the IG’s report says since 2001, the parish has spent more than $512,000 on miscellaneous expense allowances.
“They’re getting a vehicle allowance, a cell phone allowance and this miscellaneous expense allowance, but interestingly enough if they wanted to go procure something for the office they could also put in for reimbursement, so exactly what is this?” McClintock said.
Parish President Mike Yenni’s administration responded to the report Tuesday (Dec. 11).
“They don’t have to account for how it’s spent. I agree with that, so more tighter guidelines are probably desirable, but his position was that it was without authorization and that’s simply untrue,” Michael Power, chief administrative assistant and former parish attorney said.
Power said the administration concurs with some of the inspector general’s other conclusions.
“We agree with the finding that too many people are receiving cell phone allowances,” Power said. “As to the amounts, who gets them, [that] is a matter that’s going to have to be worked out with the parish council, which in November adopted a resolution directing their Office of Research and Budget to work with the administration to draft specific, clear guidelines as to the cell phone allowance and, also the expense allowances.”
But, he insisted it would be impractical for the parish government to purchase and issue cell phones to public officials and employees.
"Because the people who get the cell phones would then be carrying two cell phones, their own personal cell phone and the phone issued by the parish. The IT Department would likely wind up with a responsibility of managing all of these cell phones,” Power said.
And Power emphasized that the future of the miscellaneous expense allowance does not rest with the parish president’s administration.
"The miscellaneous allowance is something that is within the control of the council,” Power said.
The inspector general said he does not believe any laws were broken.
“There’s certainly no evidence of wrongdoing.” McClintock said.