The Department of Children and Family Services, which Los Angeles County auditors have criticized for poor fiscal oversight, now is facing questions about its spending practices, specifically its office equipment purchases, it was reported this week. (file photo)
The Department of Children and Family Services, which Los Angeles County auditors have criticized for poor fiscal oversight, now is facing questions about its spending practices, specifically its office equipment purchases, it was recently reported. Among the items acquired in recent months: $374 headsets and a $153 automatic tape dispenser, the Los Angeles Times reported. Philip Browning, head of the department, said he has made equipment and technology upgrades a priority following years of neglect.
Outfitting case workers with iPhones, dictation technology and ergonomically sound furniture makes them more efficient, he said in remarks reported by The Times.
“It’s appropriate to keep employees safe and healthy,” he said. “We spend a huge amount of money on workers’ comp. We need to address that.”
According to department records, the DCFS paid $348,000 in fiscal 2014 for supplies and equipment, according to The Times. That amount more than doubled, to $709,000, in fiscal 2015. And in the first four months of the current fiscal year, the department spent $700,000-plus on the equipment — more than the similarly sized probation department did the last two full years.
A review of invoices showed that the DCFS bought the wireless office headsets when a comparable, wired alternative was available for $20 — a potential savings of more than $350 each. Officials said that employees were not required to choose the most cost-effective products to meet their ergonomic needs. The variety of available products is vast.
One employee requested and received the $153 electric tape dispenser. Another, records show, asked for a $49 doze alert — a device that wakes up someone who has drifted off. The request was approved.
“In a time when foster children and foster parents struggle to have their basic needs met, we should be buying solid, cost-effective office equipment — not some of the most expensive stuff on the market,” Aubrey Manual, president of a foster parent association that has lobbied unsuccessfully for more money to be spent on reversing a critical shortage of foster homes, told The Times. “Someone over there needs to use better judgment.”
But Germaine Key of the department’s health and safety management division told The Times the prices being paid were appropriate — “standard for what good products cost.”