Wednesday, December 14, 2011

City of Indianapolis Racks Up Utility Late Fees

WRTV Reporter Kara Kenney
Why is the City of Indianapolis paying utility late fees?    I don't care what Controller Jeff Spalding says, there is no excuse.  Clearly someone is falling down on the job.  WRTV reports:
The Indianapolis-Marion County government has racked up more than $138,915 in late fees on its electric, water and other utility bills since 2008, records show. 
According to documents obtained by the Call 6 Investigators through a public records request, the city-county government accumulated $93,630 in late fees in 2011 involving utilities that include Indianapolis Power and Light, Indianapolis Water Company, Comcast, Ameritech and Citizens Energy Group.
The payments range from a few cents to a $58,520 late fee payment to IPL in April 2011, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.
The State Board of Accounts, which audits most government units in Indiana, but not Indianapolis-Marion County government, told RTV6 that auditors regularly raise concerns about late fees.
"Units of government should not pay late fees for anything," State Examiner Bruce Hartman wrote in an email to RTV6. "Units of government have all the resources they need to get bills paid on time, so we see this as an inappropriate expenditure and will ask the official to pay it back. As with all audits, this is fact-sensitive, so we would have to know the exact facts, but in general, this is our policy." 
City Controller Jeff Spalding, who serves as CFO and oversees the city's finances, said individual departments are responsible for paying their own utility bills.
"Certainly, late payments aren't desirable," he said "We pay about $15 million to $20 million in utility bills on an annual basis."
Spalding said the Department of Public Works racked up the majority of the late fees.
"Ninety-nine percent of these late fees were associated with electric utility bills at wastewater treatment facilities," he said. "That wastewater treatment was a big consumer of utility costs, particularly electrical costs."
Spalding also explained that DPW's utility bills aren't like the ones a typical resident receives at home.
"They have a variety of facilities across the city and they have this very complicated bill, yet the timeline for paying it is not adjusted," Spalding said. "I do feel there's a real challenge when you've got a complex billing process."

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