A new report from the City Auditor’s office found evidence that health inspectors appeared “to have wasted City resources as a result of grossly inefficient practices and procedures.”
The report, available to view online here, states the Office of the City Auditor in January received an allegation of several officers with the Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division were misusing resources and were not being held accountable by supervisors. The report states the auditor found evidence that appears the division “wasted City resources as a result of inadequate practices and procedures that include the lack of a structured work plan for Environmental Health Officers, limited supervisor review of inspection activity, and insufficient supervision of officers in the field.” The auditor’s office added the investigation found inspectors falsifying times on inspection reports and not documenting any work for large blocks of time.
A total of seven officers were investigated in the report and the auditor’s office said three use their personal vehicles. All of the officers who use their personal vehicles “misused City resources in a grossly uneconomical manner,” the report said. Additionally, the report stated “at least two of the three” officers observed during the investigation “may have attempted to conceal their misuse on their inspection reports.”
According to the auditor’s report, one officer was observed working out at a gym “on at least two separate dates for between an hour-and-a-half and two hours each time.” The second officer in an interview admitted they may have taken a nap in their car “once” during work hours, while the third admitted “to running errands and shopping during work hours about “once every two weeks.””
The auditor said a professional sanitarian re-inspected 13 food establishments that were inspected by the officers on the days of their observations, and found the re-inspections were on average within four points of the original inspection score.
“We take these matters very serious because we are public servants. So we want to make sure we’re doing all we can to ensure the safety of the public but then also ensure that we’re good stewards of the resources," Interim Director of Austin Public Health, Stephanie Hayden told KVUE.
The report also stated it reviewed GPS records of three officers who use city vehicles and found questionable time gaps between inspector locations but the auditor could not conclude whether the gaps constituted waste.