Release: Audit Finds DPW Has Persistent Billing and Collections Issues

Crest of the City of Baltimore

Bill Henry
Comptroller,
Baltimore City
204 City Hall - Baltimore Maryland 21202
(410) 396-5410

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT
Geoff Shannon, Public Relations Officer
(410) 387-5704

geoff.shannon@baltimorecity.gov

 

City Auditor Josh Pasch presented the Biennial Performance Audit for the Department of Public Works (DPW) at the February 9th Board of Estimates meeting.

The Department of Audits assessed whether DPW has adequately addressed water billing risks, as well as followed up on recommendations that were included as part of the previous performance audit reports. The audit covered fiscal years 2019 and 2020. This is the initial phase of a comprehensive water billing review. Auditing water billing practices is a formidable task and requires more time than the biennial audit process allowed.

Auditors interviewed key individuals in DPW and the Baltimore City Information Technology department, reviewed policies and procedures concerning the water billing process and evaluated DPW’s risk assessment capabilities.

Among the audit findings concerning water billing it was noted that:

  • The City does not take proactive measures to increase water revenue collections.
  • There are no processes in place to collect delinquent accounts.
  • DPW could not show how much they billed customers during this fiscal period.
  • They were able to demonstrate DPW collected $177 million (2019) and $212 million (2020) in billings.

The City Auditor recommended DPW collect its data more accurately and share those statistics with City leadership to consider ways to maximize revenue collection.

The Department of Audits also reviewed DPW’s information technology, water meter shop and customer service support division and offered performance recommendations for each sector. A full audit report is available online. 

Comptroller Bill Henry explained, “We need accurate information from DPW in order to eliminate mistakes in the billing process, collect revenue on time and target egregiously delinquent accounts. While we're trying not to charge more than our lower-income residents can afford, it's important that we actually collect what we're due from those who can.”

Henry continued, “We cannot properly run our City if there isn’t a clear understanding of WHO oversees collecting revenue and HOW it is done. It’s especially important to have this information moving forward as we implement the Water Accountability and Equity Act.”

This is the fourth of seven performance audits that are part of the 2021 Biennial Audit plan approved by the Biennial Audits Commission. A full audit schedule is listed at https://comptroller.baltimorecity.gov/audits.

Background
The Department of Audits (DOA) is the city's independent auditor, providing various audit attestation engagements and assurance services with the overall goal of improving government accountability.

The DOA, pursuant to Article V § 11, performs biennial audits of agencies. In 2021, this includes the Department of Finance, the Department of Public Works, the Baltimore City Fire Department, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Department of General Services, the Baltimore Development Corporation, Baltimore City Information Technology, and the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services.

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