Target 11 investigates brand new laptops paid for with tax dollars but never used



PITTSBURGH - Two years ago, Pittsburgh's Bureau of Building Inspection purchased 41 laptop computers to put in its vehicles. The goal was to give every inspector a laptop to allow them to quickly and accurately input information from the field and save time and money.

But Target 11 discovered that nearly two years later, the computers haven't been used, and they sit in a closet on the sixth floor of the City-County Building collecting dust.

And the computers weren't cheap. Each one cost $3,697.28. In November of 2010, the city bought 41 for a total price of $157,025.08.

City Controller Michael Lamb told Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle that he doesn't understand why they haven't been put to use yet.

"It's a complete waste of money. It's a complete waste of money and complete waste of resources," said Lamb

And what's even more disturbing, said Lamb, is that the city also ordered wireless air cards and paid a $30 monthly fee for each computer even though they were never ever used.

"Taxpayers were basically paying a monthly phone bill so to speak for some 40 computers, and they were sitting in a closet, said Lamb.

So Target 11 wanted to know why the holdup? After nearly two years, why aren't the computers in the inspectors' cars?

Lamb tells Target 11 he was initially told a software glitch was the big holdup.

But when Earle began asking questions, the city administration told Earle that there were several larger, more pressing computer projects that needed the attention of the city's information systems department.

The city's director of operations, Duane Ashley, told Target 11 that the city is doing the best it can with limited resources. Ashley said the computer experts had to implement a new email system and a new financial system. Ashley said both of those projects took time and resources.

Ashley said those projects have now been completed and the city is now preparing to concentrate on the BBI laptops.

Ashley said he's hoping to have the laptops into the hands of the inspectors by the end of September. Lamb said he's heard those promises before.

"They continue to report they are implementing this new software, and it's taking time and there have been glitches, but every time they report to us it's going to happen, it's going to happen soon. We made the right decision in buying them because we really thought it could help them meet their mission down there, but there not meeting anyone's mission sitting in a closet," Lamb added.

Target 11 wanted to know how much the city spent on those unused air cards. Ashley said the city did get a credit back, but he refused to say how much the city spent. Lamb said he's still trying to get a figure from the information systems department.