Food prices keep going up, sure, but some of this is absurd! In its second audit this month related to food in the city, the Comptroller's office has called out the Department of Education for not being careful with its food contracts—with costly results [PDF]. Like, for instance, with the distributor who charged the DOE the same amount to deliver cases of "Beef - Gyro Strip" as it did to deliver cheaper and lighter cases of "Eggplant, breaded." And it goes on. After the audit, the Comptroller's office went and smacked down a Department of Education contract that inexplicably jumped $20 million dollars in a year!
"With budget deficits still looming, contracts with huge inexplicable cost increases and other outstanding questions simply cannot be green-lighted," Comptroller Liu said in a statement regarding the vetoed contract. "An extra $20 million on top of $45 million is an enormous amount of money." He has requested that the DOE better explain the price hike before resubmitting the contract.
As for the DOE's general food concessions, the Comptroller's office made 14 recommendations for the DOE to better manage its food (mostly regarding being more careful with contracts), 11 of which the department says it agrees with. But it really does sound like the cash-strapped DOE needs to mind its money a bit better. Liu and co. claim the DOE is due back at least $410,000 in overpayments and, in a spreadsheet the Post got its hands on, appears to have massively overpaid on a number of basic ingredients. According to Liu, "the city’s failure to renegotiate the cost of products under contract with four vendors when prices fluctuate led it to pay $2.32 for parsley that costs 26 cents and $1.03 for scallions that run 12 cents." Oops?
The DOE, for its part, says it hadn't seen the spreadsheet yet but had lots of doubts after briefly examining it. "Half of the products on the spreadsheet we no longer purchase," a spokesman told the tabloid.