City of Austin wasted thousands of dollars paying for unused pagers, audit finds

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin has spent tens of thousands of dollars over the last decade on pagers that were not used or needed, according to a City audit.

As of 2020, the City was paying monthly pager account fees for 90 former employees, including one who left a job at the City in 2011.

Additionally, 14% of current employees who have an active pager account said they do not have or use a pager. Two-thirds of City employees who responded to a survey said they could complete their work tasks without a pager.

The audit noted that while individual accounts are inexpensive, at $4.50 per month with a $35 replacement pager fee, the City’s annual spending on pagers amounted to $88,614.

Despite that spending, 42% of the City’s 1,638 pager accounts received five or fewer messages over a five-month period in 2020, with 16% receiving zero messages during that time.

The annual cost of pager accounts that received less than five messages over that five-month span is more than $37,000.

Some City departments still consider pagers necessary, and they were described in the audit as a critical tool for emergency staff.

However, many workers now use their cell phones instead, making pagers unnecessary for many departments. Several City departments have completely eliminated their use of pagers in the last year, according to the audit. In June 2020, the Austin Police Department significantly reduced pager use and moved to another messaging system, with a total savings of about $11,000 per month.

The audit recommended that departments should reconcile active accounts with those billed to the City. As part of this recommendation, City staff would turn in any unused pagers.

The City’s contract with Spok, which provides the pagers, began in 1999. It expires in 2022, according to the audit.

The City’s Audit Finance Committee met to review the audit at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

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