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Controller Lamb Talks ALCOSAN Audit, Hydro-Electric Power

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Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb said Wednesday that he didn’t find any evidence of nepotism at the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority in his latest performance audit, but the perception of such favoritism is hurting the organization.

“There’s this continuing perception that everything at ALCOSAN is pay-to-play, whether it’s contracting, personnel hiring, any of these issues,” Lamb said. “We wanted to get in and make sure these procedures are in place, because we know ALCOSAN is going to grow over the next 20 years.”

Changes in hiring procedures and how jobs at ALCOSAN are advertised are just a couple of the recommendations laid out in the audit, which was completed over the course of nine months.

Lamb said the new audit was a follow-up to a 2009 audit. Both aim to ensure that ALCOSAN will be fully prepared to implement its $2 billion storm water management plan once it is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The state and federal government are requiring ALCOSAN to update its infrastructure in order to comply with the Clean Water Act.

“We wanted to go back now and say, OK, they agreed with our recommendations (in the first audit). Did they actually implement those recommendations?” Lamb said. “Generally, the answer to that is yes, they did.”

Those recommendations included re-opening the bidding process for a retained engineering consultant, and revising the professional service contract award process.

Lamb said they not only checked up on the status of the 2009 recommendations, but also looked at personnel issues, low-bid contracting procedures, and participation levels of minority and woman-owned businesses, also known as MBE/WBE.

“I think they do a pretty good job of setting those goals,” Lamb said, referring to the number of MBE/WBE businesses awarded contracts by ALCOSAN. “But it’s not clear whether the actual spending met those goals. We’ve asked them to keep track of that moving forward as well.”

In a letter to Lamb, ALCOSAN Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams expressed appreciation for the recommendations, saying “best management practices can only enhance public trust in our provision of quality service from not only an environmental but fiscally responsible perspective.”

Lamb also noted that ALCOSAN is looking into developing on-site hydro-electric power, taking advantage of the 140,000 gallons of water that drain out of the plant and into the Ohio River every minute, an initiative unrelated to the recently completed audit.

“In this day and age, when we’re looking for all kinds of renewable energy resources, and we are the town of three rivers, it could be a real part of our energy future,” Lamb said. “This is one area where we could do a really good small pilot project.”