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Audit Finds Ineptitude in Use of City Bond

October 25, 2002|Kenneth Reich | Times Staff Writer

A pattern of ineptitude -- delays, disputes, cost overruns and lax management -- is dogging the use by the L.A. Zoo and the Recreation and Parks Department of a $750-million bond passed by voters in 1996, according to an audit released Thursday.

The audit was done for City Controller Laura Chick at the direction of Kurt Sjoberg, the former state auditor general.

The bond issue envisioned 30 years of work; many of the hundreds of projects have not begun.

The audit found that, by May, of $106 million in projects set for the first five years, only $34 million worth had been completed and $90 million worth should have been. Project delays ranged from one to three years.

Cost estimates for a great deal of work have been too low, the audit said, requiring use of other city funds, or, in the zoo's case, donations to finish the jobs.

Seventeen Recreation and Parks projects are on hold. In some cases, the initial contractors have failed to perform their work or have been terminated.

As the audit was being prepared, responsibility for many of the construction projects called for in the bond issue was transferred from the two departments to the city's Bureau of Engineering, where Chick said she hopes for better management.

In a letter to Mayor James K. Hahn, Chick wrote, "The city must have skilled, qualified, top-notch management experts in place on all construction projects." She contended that the city is overexposed to "construction delays, cost overruns, shoddy work and lawsuits."

Manuel A. Mollinedo, who recently went from directing operations at the zoo to becoming general manager of Recreation and Parks, on Thursday called the audit an accurate report of past shortcomings.

Mollinedo said he hopes that in the future, his department will be "more realistic, and not make commitments unless we are sure we can be on budget and on time" with projects.

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