January 20, 2022
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury 1998 Final Report: Procedures for Receiving and Returning Purchased Goods
Background | Findings | Recommendations

San Mateo County’s receiving functions are decentralized. Each department within the County is free to develop its own procedures for receiving and returning purchased goods. These procedures must provide for necessary fiscal controls and accountability to preserve the integrity of the process. County departments share the services of various receiving locations.

The advantage of a decentralized system is that the degree of control and the rigidity of control procedures can vary depending upon the department’s needs. In the County, these needs vary widely. Some departments make frequent, repetitive purchases, others make large purchases of capital equipment, while still others have few purchasing requirements.

The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury was informed, through an employee survey, that there may be a lack of control in some aspects of the receiving and returning of purchased goods. The most common problem, where material was not properly accounted for, was employee error due to lack of procedures and guidelines.


Interviews and further investigation by the San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury revealed instances where control errors were made involving partial deliveries and returned goods. Apparently, employees did not follow through to ensure closure with all parties involved in the transaction. The reasons for this problem are lack of discipline, lack of training, incomplete or confusing instructions and procedures, or any combination of these.

San Mateo County purchasing procedures, in common with other counties, emphasize rules to prevent fraud and unnecessary charges, but lack detailed procedural instructions for employees. There also appears to be no process in place that allows for the tracking of receiving and returning transactions.

Recommendation 5: The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors should, by June 30, 1999, direct the San Mateo County Manager to create and distribute clear, written guidelines for departmental level use and enhance employee training to ensure integrity and accountability for the receiving and returning of purchased goods. These written guidelines and the associated employees training should incorporate uniformity of policy as well as a method for safeguarding and tracking purchases to ensure the best use of taxpayer resources.
Recommendation 6: The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury should monitor the progress and completion of a clear written set of procedural guidelines for the receiving of purchased goods and their distribution to all County Departments by June 30, 1999.


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