Memphis mayor A C Wharton presented his administration's preliminary report on the city's beleaguered general services division this afternoon, saying the problems seemed almost by design.
"It's hard to believe any government operation could just slip into this sort of disrepair," he said.
The city's general service division has been the subject of investigation for a range of problems, including allegations of fraud that involved a tire repair contractor. Recently, it also came to light that 90 police vehicles — a purchase of almost $2 million — delivered in the spring had carpet floors instead of the necessary rubber mats.
"There has not been sufficient attention devoted to fleet operations and the control of fleet assets has been totally ineffective," the report says. "Performance measures are meaningless at best and nonexistent at worst."
The report recommends that the city revamp purchasing specifications so that all vendors have a local presence, allow divisions to outsource vehicle repair work to reduce a current backlog, and begin restructuring management and administrative functions. The mayor said general services employees will also receive additional training.
"Many of the employees do not know what they're supposed to be doing," he said.
The mayor noted that the city of Memphis lacks a comprehensive performance evaluation system, and has for some time.
"For the most part, there are no performance appraisals in the city of Memphis," Wharton said. "That's why it's hard to fire people around here."
However, four senior employees have already left the division; an investigation is pending for one more.
The administration also plans to implement a whistle-blower system for employees across city government to anonymously report abuses such as those that have occurred in general services.
"We're looking everywhere," Wharton said. "People know I won't retaliate against them if they see something wrong. ... That's what I want to engender. That's why I want to ramp up this whistle-blower system."