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 user 2009-04-17 at 12:13:39 pm Views: 31
  • #21914
    Reimbursement From Office Depot …….Get in Line !
    City Manager Phil Kamlarz said Tuesday night that his office has asked
    for the return of more than a quarter of a million dollars Berkeley
    claims it is owed by office supply giant Office Depot. But to get the
    money, Kamlarz and the city are going to have to stand in a long line
    of government officials from around the country.

    Local and state
    governments from California to Florida, site of Office Depot’s
    corporate headquarters, are claiming similar charges against the
    company.Last week, the Daily Planet reported a charge by Berkeley City
    Finance Director Robert Hicks that Office Depot company had overcharged
    the city by as much as $250,000 during the course of a three-year,
    $550,000-a-year contract to provide miscellaneous office supplies and
    recycled copy paper to the city. Hicks began an investigation of the
    overcharge after the Berkeley City Council was approached by Radston’s
    Office Plus President Diane Griffin, who said her analysis of city
    records showed that Office Depot was giving Berkeley less than the 55
    percent discount on certain items promised in its contract.

    a member of the board of directors of the National Office Products
    Alliance (NOPA), estimated that the Office Depot overcharges were
    accumulating at a rate of $8,000 a month, and in a March 21 San
    Francisco Business Times article, Hicks estimated the overcharges at

    NOPA has been conducting what amounts to a national
    campaign against alleged overcharges in some of Office Depot’s
    government office supply contracts. In a statement released to Reuters
    earlier this year, the association’s chairperson, Bob Chilton, said,
    “NOPA continues to advocate for more, not less, competition that
    includes independent small businesses in our industry, with consistent
    multiple contract awards to ensure there is ongoing, daily competition
    for government business.”

    Office Depot neither admits nor denies
    Berkeley’s allegations. In an e-mail response to the Daily Planet’s
    query, Jason Shockley, senior manager of public relations for Office
    Depot, said that “We are aware of these allegations and Office Depot
    intends to fully cooperate with any audit conducted by the City of
    Berkeley, as we do with all government and regulatory agencies. Office
    Depot is committed to pricing integrity, and we consistently work with
    our customers to ensure we are providing the best service and the
    greatest value possible.”

    An Internet search shows that Office
    Depot has had a long string of government audits and charges to
    cooperate with in recent years. Among them:

    • Following a state
    audit last year, Office Depot agreed to reimburse the state of
    California $2.5 million for overcharges incurred during a two-year
    period of $57 million in state office supply purchases.

    • A 2008
    North Carolina state audit concluded that Office Depot had overcharged
    North Carolina state agencies by more than $294,000 over a six-month
    period. Among the charges in the state audit was that the company
    inflated base retail prices on the bid so that it would look like it
    was offering a higher discount than it actually was, included
    unauthorized items in shipments during the course of the contract, and
    switched brands so that the value of the products shipped to North
    Carolina was less than what was contracted and paid for. In a prepared
    news release, North Carolina State Auditor Leslie Merritt said that
    “There are numerous reports that Office Depot has engaged in a pattern
    of overcharging and violating state contracts in Georgia, California,
    Nebraska, Florida, and now North Carolina.”

    • Last year,
    Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley found that Office Depot overcharged
    the state as much as 400 percent ($1.06 for staples that were supposed
    to be bought for 21 cents, for example) on purchased items included in
    the state’s $3 million per year, three-year contract with the company.

    Also in 2008, the state of Georgia terminated its $40 million per year
    office supply contract with Office Depot over charges by state
    officials that the company “repeatedly overcharged and mispriced items
    for state employees,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Earlier this year, the Missouri attorney general’s office began an
    investigation into allegations that Office Depot had overcharged
    government agencies, nonprofit agencies and charitable groups in that
    state by using “bait-and-switch” tactics.