Department of Agriculture and Markets

 

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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Department of Agriculture and Markets
Oversight of Weights and Measures Programs


Issued: December 01, 2017
Link to full audit report 2016-S-98

Purpose
To determine whether the Department of Agriculture and Markets (Department) adequately monitors and enforces weights and measures to ensure consumer confidence in products purchased in New York State. The audit covers the period April 1, 2014 to July 20, 2017.

Background
The Department’s Bureau of Weights and Measures (Bureau) is charged with ensuring measurement accuracy and uniformity in commerce to help ensure that consumers get what they pay for and that competition is fair. Department regulations specify that all commercial devices used to weigh and measure commodities sold on the basis of weight, volume, or size are to be inspected and tested for accuracy at least annually. Such devices include gas pumps and vehicle and grocery scales. Gasoline and diesel fuels sold for use in motor vehicles are also subject to inspection to ensure they meet quality standards and are properly labeled.

The Department and 60 municipalities (57 counties and three cities under the supervision of the Department) share responsibility for inspecting devices. Generally, the municipalities are expected to: enforce the relevant laws and regulations; inspect and test commercially used weighing and measuring devices and retail gasoline and diesel fuels; inspect and test packaged commodities; regulate commercial weighing and measuring practices; and investigate consumer and business complaints. The Department is responsible for: supervising municipal inspections; training municipal inspectors; assisting municipal officials when requested; coordinating certain investigation and enforcement activities; and developing regulations, procedures, and guidelines to help ensure uniform inspection and enforcement activities.

According to the Department’s 2015 annual report data, approximately 170,000 weighing/ measuring devices were used by more than 27,000 commercial establishments statewide. Gasoline and diesel fuel were distributed from about 140 terminals and sold from about 4,800 retail stations statewide.

Key Findings

  • We found systemic issues with the quality of data the Department relies on to administer the State’s weights and measures program. Data inaccuracies and system deficiencies were found in two of the Bureau’s most critical databases. Such deficiencies diminish the Department’s ability to conduct useful analyses and to provide meaningful information to the municipalities. Such information could potentially assist municipalities to focus their limited resources on areas of highest risk to consumers and producers.
  • Our site visits to seven municipalities found most of them did not complete all their mandated annual inspections. The inability to inspect all of these devices diminishes the municipalities’ and Department’s ability to ensure fair competition and provide producer and consumer confidence in the goods sold in the State.

Key Recommendations

  • Implement procedures to incorporate periodic data analysis to:
    • Identify municipal functions that need improvement;
    • Identify patterns, outliers, and/or areas of concern for petroleum quality testing; and
    • Provide information to municipalities to assist them in managing allocation of their staff resources as effectively as possible.
  • Develop and implement procedures for input, quality assurance, and utilization of the information in each of the Bureau’s systems.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest

Department of Agriculture and Markets: Food Safety Monitoring (2013-S-27)
Department of Agriculture and Markets: Dairy Inspections (2014-S-16)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Stephen Goss
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236