Oklahoma City has hundreds of police radios valued at more than $850,000 sitting in storage, state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said Tuesday.
Jones called the unused radios “a significant waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Jones' office uncovered the radios in the course of an audit begun last year.
The city requested the audit in response to a whistle-blower complaint by the police department's head of information technology.
Capt. Bradd Brown alleged money was misappropriated for personal gain by the manager of a project to upgrade public safety communications systems.
The auditor said his investigation found no evidence to support that claim.
However, auditors found instances where the public safety communications project could have benefited from “greater safeguards and oversight.”
The radios, designed to transmit data to and from mobile computers in police cars, were purchased for about $1,000 each in 2006.
Managers found they unexpectedly bogged down communications on voice and data systems, said M.T. Berry, an assistant city manager, in an interview Tuesday.
As a result, responses to such things as routine records checks were slow, said Berry, who is a former Oklahoma City police chief. He said it was possible that officers in trouble would be unable to call for help.
The auditor's report said Oklahoma City purchased about 876 radios, a model called M/A Com 500M, in 2006 for police and fire vehicles.
The cost was $905,784.
According to the audit report, the Public Safety Capital Projects office “voiced general concerns about the radios' capabilities” to an internal oversight panel as early as July 2006.
Nonetheless, the city continued buying radios through November.
Auditors said Kerry Wagnon, public safety program manager, pointed out to them that the city had ordered the radios.
The radios “did what they were advertised to do” although using them “would not be in our best interest,” Wagnon told auditors.
“So we honored our purchase,” he said.
Of the 876 radios purchased, about 485 were installed and later removed, auditors found.
Forty radios ultimately were used for other purposes, and 12 were used for spare parts, the report said, “leaving 824 intact radios in a city-owned storage facility.”
“At a cost of $1,034 per unit, 824 unused radios equates to $852,016 in obsolete inventory,” the audit concluded.
‘Still have value to us'
Berry asserted that the stockpiled radios are not obsolete.
Modified for voice communications, those radios can be used as replacements for radios in vehicles that are not used for public safety, he said.
They also can be used for spare parts, Berry said.
The city has 759 of these type of radios in use now in vehicles that are not used for public safety, Berry said.
Managers expect the need for spares to escalate as those radios age, he said.
The stockpiled radios can fill that need, Berry said.
“They are not obsolete at this point,” he said. “They still have value to us.”
Berry added, “The good news I think to take out of this is that all of the radios are accounted for, we know where all of them are.”
Had managers known more when they were buying the radios, it's possible a different decision would have been made, Berry said.
Wagnon said he was gratified by the audit's conclusions regarding alleged misappropriation of public money.
“From the moment I was informed of the initial allegations I was surprised, yet confident that an investigation would result in clearance of the matter.”