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City Wasting Phone Lines

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Millions of our cash-strapped city dollars are going to unused phone lines, says a new audit from City Controller Wendy Greuel.

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Details from the Daily News:

Los Angeles taxpayers are paying nearly $3 million a year for nearly 12,000 municipal telephone lines that are no longer in use....

In addition to the idle phone lines, Greuel found a lack of oversight over long-distance and international calls made by city employees.

In the civilian world, there are all sorts of new ways to avoid long-distance charges, and the city is now realizing this:

One area of new technology the city is looking at...is Voice Over Internet Protocol, which allows unlimited long-distance and international calls. Systems are being installed at newer locations....

The city used to face late penalties on unpaid phone bills as high as $800,000 a year in the 1990s. The L.A. Weekly has more on the phone situation:

Greuel's report states that one out of four city phone lines goes unused but still racks up minimum service fees; that the city pays a rate of about $2.8 million dollars a year for those idle phones; and that there is virtually no city monitoring of long-distance and international calls....Even when unused lines are identified, the city's Information Technology Agency waits 60 days -- as $264,000 in fees amass -- to disconnect them. (That's more than enough to send our mayor to Europe ... twice!).

"The City provides virtually no oversight on whether international calls made by city employees is justified," Greuel writes in a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the City Council, and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. "Each international call is supposed to have a 'toll record' form with approval by department management to document the reason or justification of the call. Of the 41 calls sampled, 33 percent lacked any type of paperwork, and zero calls had received departmental approval."

Past City of Angles blogging on Controller Greuel here and here.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user loop_oh. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

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