Pittsburgh's technology department hired consultants in 2012 and 2013 — at least one of whom was a former an employee of the department — to perform jobs that lesser-paid city workers could be trained to do, the city controller said on Tuesday.

Controller Michael Lamb released an audit of the City Information Systems Department that found the city paid B-Three Solutions Inc. in Plum nearly $650,000 in 2012 and 2013 for specialized information technology services. The audit covered 2012, 2013 and the beginning of this year.

Auditors recommended that CIS, which Mayor Bill Peduto renamed the Department of Innovation and Performance after taking office in January, use its own employees, not outside consultants, when possible.

“The problem is it's hard for government to keep people in (information technology) jobs because they can make a lot more money in the private sector,” Lamb said, adding that auditors found nothing wrong with B-Three Solutions employing a former CIS employee.

Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, declined to comment beyond the department's written response in the audit report.

James Sloss, the department's deputy director, wrote that city employees are typically used to perform IT work.

“Only when specialized IT services are needed does (the Department of Innovation and Performance) contract with a third party consultant,” he wrote.

Mike Wallace, president of B-Three, said the firm fills in gaps when city employees lack knowledge for specialized IT jobs. He noted that money paid to the firm during the two years was a small fraction of the department's $13.3 million annual budget.

“They're free to hire another firm,” Wallace said. “They're free to hire their own people. We're providing specialized help for them in a couple areas where they've been unable to retain their own employees.”

The audit noted that directors of other city departments made equipment purchases with little input from CIS.

Chief Innovation and Performance Officer Debra Lam in April issued a memorandum that says she must preapprove all IT purchases.

Lamb praised the department's response to the audit.

“They've embraced these recommendations,” he said.

©2014 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)