For Immediate Release
Contact: Steve Halvonik 717 787-1381
Dept. of Agriculture Restaurant Inspection Program audit text
Auditor General Jack Wagner Calls for Passage of Food Safety Legislation After Closure of Capitol Cafeteria
The Capitol cafeteria and all restaurants must be safe, Wagner said
HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 24, 2009 – Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that the failed inspection and subsequent closing of the Capitol cafeteria further highlight the need for food safety legislation he has championed for the past four years.
The Auditor General also expressed deep concern that for the past four years he received false assurances that inspections were conducted of the Capitol cafeteria after he raised the issue in an audit he released in November 2005. Wagner learned last week that, in fact, state agencies continued wrangling over jurisdictional issues that his audit termed “inexcusable.”
Wagner’s audit can be found at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us. The audit sounded the alarm four years ago to address this problem.
"Inspections of all public eateries are conducted to ensure health and safety,” Wagner said. In the case of the Capitol cafeteria, Wagner noted at least 200,000 people visit the Capitol every year, including busloads of elementary school children and tour groups of senior citizens. “State agencies should not argue for four years over a health and safety issue while school children, senior citizens, other visitors and public servants can purchase meals prepared in kitchens that are unsafe.”
As a direct result of Wagner’s initial audit, the Department of Agriculture inspected the Capitol cafeteria in November 2005, which was the last actual inspection of the Capitol cafeteria until last week. In May 2005, Wagner’s department received a letter from the Department of General Services saying that DGS, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the City of Harrisburg would “soon memorialize in writing” who would inspect the Capitol eateries.
Wagner’s auditors followed up on the original audit in November 2007, at which time they received assurances that the Department of Agriculture inspects the Capitol Complex Building. But apparently the jurisdictional dispute was never actually resolved.
Wagner said the food safety legislation that is languishing in the General Assembly could address this issue and others to improve the restaurant inspection process.
"Although Pennsylvania’s restaurant industry is generally clean and safe, the passage of an important piece of food safety legislation, like House Bill 174, would greatly improve the restaurant inspection process to further assure the residents of Pennsylvania of the safety of every restaurant in the commonwealth,” Wagner said.
Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the Commonwealth’s elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts more than 5,000 audits per year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department’s Web site at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.