What does virtually every Austinite carry around in their pocket 24/7? A cell phone! In spite of this, a recent audit found that the city of Austin is spending tons of money on employee pagers. And in many cases, those devices are going unused and those employees are nonexistent.
According to the Office of the City Auditor, Austin has more than 1,600 active pager accounts—many of which are rarely used, if ever.
From the report: “Over a five-month period, 42% of city pager users received one page a month or less.” It cost taxpayers $50,220 to provide pagers to employees who only received between 0 and 20 pages per month.
Worse yet, the report also revealed: “At least 90 active pager accounts, across 14 departments, were for employees that no longer work for the city.”
Ergo, the auditor concludes:
“The City has not effectively managed pagers, resulting in unnecessary spending and possibly impacting the City’s ability to communicate in an emergency.”
The report raises a slew of questions, like: Why are they still using pagers? When will former employees’ pager accounts be cancelled? What other old, outdated technologies are draining public money? Is the city still renting movies from Blockbuster too?
While the answer to these questions may be elusive for now, one thing is clear: We need to more fully investigate Austin’s $4.2 billion budget to look for other opportunities to modernize its operation and stop wasteful spending. One way to help get this done is through the use of a third-party independent audit. Incidentally, they are a tool that every large city and county should wield.
It’s critical that taxpayers get a more complete look at city expenditures—because if history is any guide, then Pagergate is just the tip of the iceberg.