Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher broke the story this week that the CEO says his critics are politicizing weaknesses in DeKalb's purchasing system.

DeKalb County’s troubled purchasing department will get new oversight

New oversight for DeKalb County’s purchasing department could settle a dispute between the CEO and members of the county commission.

Chief executive Michael Thurmond and some commissioners clashed earlier this year over how the scandal-plagued procurement division should be cleaned up. An audit finalized in January made several recommendations that Thurmond declined to implement or insisted were not feasible.

Among them was a suggestion that the commission not approve purchases of $1 million or more unless an independent auditor reviewed the contracts first to ensure they were awarded fairly and reasonably. Thurmond said the recommendation improperly shifted the balance of power between his office and county commissioners.

However, he announced Wednesday that he will hire two contract compliance officers that will conduct reviews in a similar fashion.

“The contract compliance officers will ensure that DeKalb County funds are being spent effectively, efficiently, and responsibly,” Thurmond said in a press release. “DeKalb is committed to ensuring that the county’s procurement process achieves the highest standards of accountability and transparency while complying with all legal requirements.”

Related | With millions at stake, DeKalb leaders split on purchasing system fix

Related | DeKalb commissioners embrace audit review opposed by CEO

The county is now in the process of soliciting applicants for the newly created positions, which will report directly to the CEO. He has not decided what amount will be the minimum threshold to trigger a review of contracts before they are presented to the commission for approval.

Although the CEO initially resisted the auditors’ review, some commissioners decided to put the recommendation into practice anyway. They said such an analysis for two bids in February saved taxpayers over $400,000 after changes were made.

Commissioner Kathie Gannon applauded Thurmond’s decision to hire employees to review large purchases. These analysts will also recommend updates to the county’s purchasing policies.

“I think contract compliance is a really good quality assurance tool,” Gannon said.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.