Audit of DSS’s Garbage Service Enforcement

The “grandfather” clause in MCC § 7-28-240 provides for City garbage collection service to certain multi-unit dwellings that would otherwise be required to procure private garbage service. Until recently, DSS’s “grandfather list” had not been updated since 2007 and contained 2,402 properties. An informal survey by DSS, following initial OIG inquiries, concluded in March 2014 that collection service was still being provided to approximately 1,839 multi-unit dwellings pursuant to the ordinance’s grandfather clause. DSS is also providing City garbage service to 1,393 not-for-profit organizations. (As part of the release of this audit, both lists may be found on OIG’s website.) According to DSS’s own estimates, garbage service to these multi-unit dwellings and not-for-profit organizations costs the City $3,275,207 and $3,316,274, respectively, each year.

Based upon the results of our audit, we concluded that DSS’s present enforcement of MCC § 7-28-240 is neither effective nor efficient. OIG found that DSS’s ordinance enforcement mechanism, the grandfather list, has been seriously inaccurate. DSS began a full review of the grandfather list in late 2013 with the assistance of the City’s Department of Law (DOL). Based on that review, DSS concluded that another 794 multi-unit properties from the grandfather list may no longer be eligible for service. DSS stated that it will initiate procedures to verify ineligibility and terminate City collection service where appropriate. Such actions may free up to approximately $1.41 million in wasted department resources that could be reallocated for other DSS responsibilities and reduce the size of the grandfather list to less than half the number of properties listed in 2007. DSS deserves credit for its proactive remedial efforts. However, OIG also found that present efforts to improve the accuracy of the grandfather list are themselves unduly time—and resource—intensive. DSS agrees with OIG’s recommendation that it develop and implement a more efficient process for updating the grandfather list and is working to develop a self-certification and audit process with DOL.

Our audit also revealed that DSS’s provision of garbage service to some not-for-profit organizations constitutes the provision of free services at taxpayer expense that is not legally authorized under the Municipal Code. If DSS wishes to continue this service, OIG recommends that the Department work with the City Council to set explicit standards in the MCC for the collection of garbage from not-for-profit organizations, and that in doing so, it consider the recent legislation respecting the provision of free water to certain non-profits as an instructive guide. If the City Council chooses not to formalize this service by amending City ordinance, OIG recommends that DSS end the practice of providing free garbage collection services to not-for-profit organizations in order to bring its practices into compliance with the law as set forth in the existing ordinance. In its response, DSS provides its own interpretation of not-for-profit service authorization under MCC § 7-28-240.