NEW YORK – The Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs operates with antiquated and incompatible computer systems, keeps incomplete paper records and cannot provide complete and up-to-date information to consumers, according to an audit released Friday by the county comptroller.
On the plus side, the audit by Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman noted that the consumer agency does not handle cash, "thus reducing the risk of lost or misappropriated funds."
The audit into three years of agency operations - 2004, 2005 and 2006 - concluded that it relied on a patchwork of computer systems in its four divisions, and manual record-keeping for a lot of its operations.
Consumer Affairs Commissioner Roger Bogsted said in a response included in the audit that "the auditors, in several instances, failed to grasp the inner workings of this office and at times have portrayed our excellence in a poor light."
An examination of 59 folders with consumer complaints found that 31 had no indications of being examined by a supervisor as required by agency rules.
Also, "important details" were often missing from the paperwork, such as the outcome of the complaint, the name of the hearing officer or the name of the investigator, the audit said.
Home improvement contractors must show proof of liability insurance when they register every two years, but because insurance is renewed annually, there was no proof that the contractors had insurance for the second year.
In one case, the audit said, a deputy commissioner involved in an investigation also served as the hearing officer, raising concern about the fairness of the proceeding.
Despite those and other negative findings, Weitzman said in a statement released with the audit that "overall, Nassau County consumers are well-served and protected by the [consumer affairs] office." He said the agency was implementing a new case management system that should improve efficiency.
Bogsted, who is also chairman of the Nassau County Conservative Party, said the agency began overseeing taxi and limousine operations in 2004 and it has been "remarkably understaffed."
He added that the agency has taken on additional responsibility in recent years for locksmith licensing, ATM registration, regulation of expired food and health products and other duties.