Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck pledged Tuesday to correct accounting practices in the LAPD's purchasing division, which an internal audit faulted for mismanaging millions of taxpayer dollars.
But Beck told the police commission there was no criminal wrongdoing and that a new manual and training program would help resolve the problems of sloppy bookkeeping and purchasing policy violations.
"There's no indication that this money has been wasted or squandered - it just hasn't been tracked appropriately," Beck said of the audit covering the 2007-08 fiscal year. "And we're going to fix that."
Beck, however, acknowledged that he had not been made aware of the audit until recently - leading Commissioner Robert M. Saltzman to chastise the administrators responsible for withholding the findings.
The audit was completed in August, and Saltzman and fellow Commissioner Alan J. Skobin expressed disappointment that the citizens panel that oversees the LAPD was not made aware of it until mid-December.
"I'm just surprised that this was not pursued with the magnitude that it was more of a serious problem, and that the chief of police was not advised of it until just recently bothers me because it is a serious problem," Saltzman said.
Purchasing officials said the delay was caused by editing and supervisorial oversight procedures involved with the auditing process, and that such delays would not occur in the future.
"If we felt there was misconduct or anything illegal occurring, we would have brought it to the attention of the chief of police and police commission," said Capt. Jodi Wakefield, training officer of LAPD internal audits and inspections division.
"This was a system audit. We felt like the system was broken down, and we had to make sure that we were accurate, so that we could make the fixes that we had to."
Beck blamed the delay partly on the department's uncertainty after former Chief William Bratton announced his resignation and the subsequent hunt for a successor that culminated in Beck's appointment last month.
"During the transition period, this got delayed," Beck said.
Administrators told the police commission that a follow-up internal audit in the coming months will measure the effectiveness of reforms that were put in place in the weeks after the audit's completion late last summer.
Beck said he has had discussions about the purchasing flaws with City Controller Wendy Greuel, concluding that her office should also conduct an outside audit.
It was an audit performed by former Controller Laura Chick in early 2007 that found shortcomings in the LAPD's purchasing system and led to the internal audit.
Among the findings of the recent internal audit:
LAPD administrators failed to solicit bids from three competitors on 80 percent of large purchases.
In some 56 percent of audited transactions totalling $2.6 million, LAPD employees could not produce receipts.
Ten percent of LAPD purchases failed to go through the multiple levels of approval required to assure they are legitimate.
Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, who was elevated to a new position in charge of administrative services - which includes the problematic purchasing department - said in an interview after the hearing that the LAPD intends to address the problems.
"The rules will be consistently followed by everybody, or we will deal with it the way supervisors deal with things," she said. "And if there's a lapse, we'll have to write people up and things like that.
"In details of the audit, we actually did have all of the receipts but some of it was done after the fact, but we did collect the receipts. We didn't do it in the order we were supposed to."