Waste Worries – Supervisors Cite Concerns Tied to Audit of Environmental Health Agency

Connor Forbes
Connor Forbes
4 Min Read
Riverside County Dept of Environmental Health

Waste Worries

RIVERSIDE – Unfavorable findings regarding the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health’s management of the county’s waste haulers prompted criticism Tuesday from several supervisors, who requested an accelerated audit to ensure changes are made.

“It’s disappointing to see the problems they’re having with oversight,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said during a hearing on Auditor- Controller Ben Benoit’s report on a review of practices and procedures in the Department of Environmental Health.

The Office of the Auditor-Controller concluded an audit last fall that reviewed environmental health’s compliance with county policies between July 2021 and October 2023.

Benoit’s staff “identified improvement opportunities for internal controls over contract management and monitoring” directly connected to the agency’s tracking of billing, revenue collection and related operations by the county’s four waste haulers.

“Contract monitoring is a key process in ensuring compliance with a contract’s established terms and conditions,” according to the audit. “Reviews of waste hauler compliance reports are not documented. Environmental health does not have an established procedure or process for documenting the review of waste hauler compliance.”

The 15-page audit further cited concerns about the lack of a “process … to ensure billings and revenues collected are reported correctly by waste haulers.”

“Environmental health does not have policies and procedures … to require a review of waste hauler billings and revenues to verify for accuracy,” the report stated. “Inadequate review can lead to inaccurate financial reporting, potential revenue losses and compromise the integrity of the department’s financial controls.”

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries pointed to the findings as illustrative of complaints that he has publicly discussed during board sessions, saying the waste haulers are too often given a pass on deficiencies.

“We don’t do competitive bidding in Riverside County on our waste haulers or ambulance providers,” he said. “There are `evergreen’ renewals to contracts. They never die; they just continue. So we don’t benefit from competitive bidding. Lacking that, how do we ensure our constituents are receiving the best possible service for the best possible price? That’s a policy decision made at this dais.”

The supervisor said the audit underscored why in prior years he has voted against price escalator adjustments to the waste haulers’ agreements with the county.

“Customers pay to have trash picked up every week, and it’s not done,” Jeffries said. “And they don’t get a discount on their bills. They pay for a service, and it’s not provided. We allow our vendors to bill our constituents for services not provided. We have to change that, because we are complicit in ripping off our constituents for services not provided.”

The audit concluded with recommendations that the Department of Environmental Health implement immediate changes to the process for documenting waste hauler compliance checks and establish a regular “review process for waste haulers to ensure verification of billings and reported revenues.”

The agency’s director, Jeff Johnson, responded in writing that the recommendations would be implemented.

However, at Spiegel’s urging, Benoit vowed to conduct a follow-up audit this year to double check that the changes had been effected, rather than letting the usual 18-month cycle expire before conducting another audit of the department.

For More Environment News Visit www.zapinin.com/environment.

waste worries. Riverside County Dept of Environmental Health
Riverside County Dept of Environmental Health
Share This Article