ALBUQUERQUE, N.M (KRQE) – From furniture to major construction projects, the city dishes out a lot of money and those expenses are published on the city’s website.
However, KRQE News 13 found out that list isn’t as clear as the city intended it to be, and now it is working to make it more transparent.
“We wanted to provide transparency on what the city spends. We have the ability to drill down and look at all the expenditures that are made. Every expenditure gets scrutinized and approved at some level,” says Jesse Muniz the city’s Chief Procurement Officer.
A closer look shows the top two highest expenses are not clearly identified. In the fiscal year 2019, the city spent about $84 million on things that were ‘unclassified,’ and more than $67 million on ‘miscellaneous’ items.
“Anytime government is being less than transparent, less than clear in what money is being used for, that’s always an issue for concern,” says Paul Gessing.
Gessing is the President of The Rio Grande Foundation, an economic policy think tank. He applauds the city for trying to be transparent with their spending but believes these categories need to be changed.
“If you have a lot of miscellaneous and unclassified things, you come up with a new category to put those things into it because there’s clearly a lot of spending going on in those areas,” he says.
The city says the unclassified expenses range from utilities, tort claims, and economic development incentives. The miscellaneous expenses are construction projects that are part of the capital expenditures, even though construction is already listed.
“What we’re facing is really a reporting issue. How can we make categorized and commodity codes useful, to better report on what we’re spending,” says Muniz.
Muniz says that fix starts with more training. “Our job is to make sure we train our departments to use the best ones so that we can do an accurate spend analysis on the types of goods and services that we’re purchasing.”
The city says the miscellaneous and unclassified categories will be changed by this fiscal year. They have about 9,000 categories for employees to report their expenditures, but they’re trying to narrow that number down to about 300.