PACIFIC COUNTY — A north county emergency medical district purchased two ambulances without verifying that the purchases complied with state law.

The North Pacific County Emergency Medical Services District No. 1 includes a portion of Pacific County, Raymond, South Bend and related Pacific County Fire Protection Districts. The district contracts with Raymond and the Naselle Volunteer Fire Department to transport citizens for emergency health services.

The district didn’t ensure it followed the state’s procurement requirements when purchasing two ambulances, according to a regular audit conducted by the Office of the Washington State Auditor.

The ambulances cost the district $353,000. The two ambulances were purchased in 2016 and 2017.

The majority of the audit found the district in compliance with state laws, state regulations and the district’s own policies. The audit covers district operations between 2015 and 2017.

Piggybacking

The two ambulances were purchased through a method called piggybacking. The method happens when one government makes purchases from another through an interlocal agreement.

Piggybacking is allowed in Washington state. However, local governments are required to prove its own bidding requirements are met before spending public money. Essentially, the district is allowed to use the method when making purchases but needs to prove it followed its own protocol.

The district couldn’t prove it followed state bid law requirements when purchasing the ambulances. The requirements are intended to “prevent fraud, collusion and favoritism when awarding public contracts, and to promote openness in government,” according to the audit.

Moving forward

The district believed it followed regulation. The district didn’t know verifying and maintaining evidence of the procurement process was part of its own bid law requirements, according to the audit.

The audit recommended the district ensure it follows its own regulations and state regulations before making future purchases.

The district responded, saying it has always intended to follow state law and regulations, “while providing for the efficient and effective management of the funds provided to the district by the local taxpayers.”

“In the future, prior to any purchase, the Board and our contractors will review and discuss all applicable rules and regulations to ensure that we understand are in compliance with those rules and regulations as we proceed,” reads the board’s response.

Alyssa Evans is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact her at 360-642-8181 or aevans@chinookobserver.com

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