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EXCESSIVE INVENTORY EXPENSIVE; COUNTY WAREHOUSES FULL OF UNUSED GEAR.

Byline: Paul Hefner Daily News Sacramento Bureau

Los Angeles County has 254 mothballed typewriters and more than 90 warehouses filled with unused and sometimes obsolete equipment, wasting at least $1.3 million a year, state auditors said Thursday.

A year ago, a consulting firm recommended scaling back the county's vast chain of warehouses and storage facilities, but 93 are still in operation, officials said.

``The county's inventory management system is inefficient and therefore costly to taxpayers,'' state Auditor Kurt Sjoberg said in his report. ``In addition, many departments store substantial amounts of excess and obsolete inventory that increases the county's warehousing and carrying costs.''

In a review of county purchasing practices made public Thursday, auditors noted that they found 254 typewriters on the shelves of one warehouse - more than 10 times the number needed in the past year.

``Why does anybody have that many typewriters?'' asked Steve Hendrickson, audit principal for the Bureau of State Audits. ``It appears to us that 254 is kind of beyond what appears reasonable.''

Auditors also found more than 100 pieces of computer equipment bought three to six months before it was installed and dozens of outdated forms still being held in inventory.

``They're not being used at all,'' Hendrickson said.

Keeping unused supplies on hand is expensive because of the cost of storage and the chance that goods will be lost, broken or go out of date. In addition, the county loses financially because money spent to buy supplies ahead of time could have been earning interest, auditors said.

County officials don't dispute the auditors' findings, but said they are taking steps to address the problem.

``We're in transition on this thing,'' said Tyler McCauley, a county assistant auditor-controller. ``We're working on this, and we're making progress.''

As the county increasingly moves toward delivering supplies directly from vendors to county departments, one of the largest warehouses already has been cleared out, he said.

The county is considering selling the property, which would bring in about $9 million, McCauley said.

In addition, the supervisors have assigned the county's Quality and Productivity Commission to examine the issue and make recommendations to the board. The commission is expected to wrap up its work soon, McCauley said.

County officials conceded there is little demand for the typewriters among workers, who increasingly use computers instead. But the excessive number bought is the exception, not the rule.

``We probably ordered them as a block because we got a good deal on them,'' McCauley said.

State officials acknowledged that some county departments have focused more attention on the issue in recent months. But they also noted that little progress was made in the 12 months after an accounting firm hired by the county issued a report on the problem in August 1996.

``It seems like it took them some time to get off the mark,'' Hendrickson said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 7, 1997
Words:476
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