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05-05-15 – 14-107 – Special Audit – TASER International Body-Worn Camera Procurements – Albuquerque Police Department

The City has an opportunity to strengthen its controls over procurements and educate both City employees and vendors on the City’s purchasing and conflict of interest regulations. Educating employees and vendors should increase awareness and compliance with City regulations.

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Background

Albuquerque City Councilor Ken Sanchez (Councilor Sanchez) requested an audit of the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) body-worn camera procurement process. Councilor Sanchez stated that it was his understanding that the contract was awarded on a “no-bid” basis and there have been concerns expressed about the relationship between TASER International (TASER) and APD’s top management. Based on these concerns, Councilor Sanchez asked the Office of Internal Audit (OIA) to “conduct a thorough and detailed audit of the entirety of the procurement process leading up to the signing of the TASER contract.”

APD’s direct relationship with TASER began in 2007, when the City contracted directly with TASER for the purchase of electronic control devices and ancillary products. Beginning in October 2012, APD performed testing and evaluation of TASER’s camera products and services, including the Axon Flex cameras. The products for that testing were supplied by TASER at no cost to APD.

Findings

APD’s initial purchase (Pilot Purchase) from TASER, for the pilot test of 75 Axon Flex body-worn cameras and Evidence.com data storage services, was made on March 27, 2013. This $106,855 purchase did not comply with the City of Albuquerque’s (City) competitive procurement process. APD personnel bypassed purchasing regulations and approvals and compromised the integrity of the procurement process. They neglected their responsibilities as government employees to determine the Department’s specific needs and then initiate a competitive procurement process to get the best product at the lowest price.

The Pilot Purchase was then used as the basis for justifying the non-competitive purchase of Evidence.com and associated products on September 30, 2013. The non-competitive procurement was processed as an “Other Exempt Purchase (OEP)” and totaled $1.9 million. The City signed TASER’s standard services contract, with a few modifications, for the OEP purchase. By signing TASER's services contract, five mandated clauses that limit risk to the City and allow independent contract oversight are excluded from the $1.9 million contract.

APD’s Former Chief of Police entered into a contractual relationship with TASER in October 2013, while on early retirement, and still technically employed by the City. The Former Chief continued to serve as a contractor after his official retirement date of December 31, 2013. City employees are prohibited from representing businesses in connection with matters in which they performed official acts, for one year after retirement. The Former Chief’s contract with TASER may have violated the Ordinance. In addition, other APD personnel accepted meals, travel, and lodging from TASER. APD personnel also solicited sponsorship donations from TASER. The acceptance of meals and other gratuities, and the solicitation of funds from vendors are not consistent with City conflict of interest regulations.

APD was charged $25,243 for overlapping Evidence.com services associated with the Pilot Purchase from August 15, 2013 to March 27, 2014 and should request a refund from TASER.