And yes Virginia, a Purchase order is a binding legal contract. In a well designed procedurement system, something the City of Bay St Louis evidently lacks, it all starts with a “purchase requisition” (requisition for short) and once the applicable legal requirements are checked and met (including checking against the budget), a purchase order is then issued and an encumbrance created.
I mention this because it is clear none of this occurred with the purchase of the new Fire Truck for the Bay St Louis Fire Department, the State Auditor’s office was called in and a controversy created:
Bay Council okays fire truck purchase ~ Cassandra Favre
In order to follow the rules one must first know what the rules are and I’m wondering if there is anyone at City Hall with any sort of meaningful expertise on the proper financial operation of a Mississippi Municipality. I still cringe in horror knowing the City runs Quickbooks as its ERP package. Such is penny wise and pound foolish on so many levels.
Luckily there is no reason to take blind stabs in the dark when it comes to the proper fiscal operation of a Municipal Government since the good folks at Mississippi State University have been kind enough to post their 2013 Municipal Handbook on the internet free of charge for everyone, and by everyone I mean especially those located at City Hall in Bay St Louis. Chapter IX (that’s 9 for those of you that do not do roman numerals) has a great section on Municipal fiscal operations. It is not an exhaustive treatise on the subject but it pairs nicely with the 2010 Municipal Audit and Accounting Guide, which is also available free of charge from the State Auditor’s Website which goes into a bit more depth.
The purchase of a Fire Truck need not be controversial at all. The City Council surely has better things to do than call in Auditor Pickering’s Investigators to make the administration follow proper purchasing procedures, especially since it all could have been avoided had someone at City Hall known what they were doing (and in the area of fiscal administration that person is NOT the City Attorney) or had simply picked up the phone and called OSA Technical Assistance and asked for help.
The bottom line is in order to do things right you gotta know what the right thing is. Based on what I read in Cassandra Favre’s story above the blind are still leading the blind at Bay St Louis City Hall and it is not a simple question of semantics of what to term a purchase order. Those of us that vote and pay taxes here deserve far better.