West Virginia budget hawks frequently point to the state’s motor vehicle fleet as an area ripe for savings. Anecdotally, they talk about all the vehicles they see on the state’s highways with the tell-tale green state license plate.
Earlier this year, lawmakers called for a legislative audit to determine the size of the state fleet. That audit is now complete, but unfortunately the number of taxpayer paid for vehicles is still unclear.
The Legislative Auditor gathered data from the three principal state agencies that deal with state-owned vehicles and came up with three vastly different numbers. The Fleet Management Office reports 7,648 state vehicles, while the Division of Motor Vehicles reported 10,504 and the Board of Risk and Management (BRIM, which provides insurance) reported 12,609.
In 2009, a Legislative audit reported there was no way to accurately determine the number of state vehicles and now seven years later the conclusion is much the same: “The Legislative Auditor has determined that there is still no single source which can accurately and fully account for the total number of vehicles in the state’s fleet.”
The lack of a uniform reporting and accounting system means each of the three agencies most responsible for state vehicles is measuring differently, and that creates problems beyond just accounting.
For example, the audit said “BRIM has indicated the possibility that it is insuring vehicles no longer in state service, particularly if agencies have decommissioned or surplussed a vehicle without notifying BRIM of the change.”
Also DMV inventories state vehicles that bear the green state license plates (10,504), “but does not capture state vehicles with a Class A license plate (a private vehicle plate). The DMV indicated it has no way of tracking these vehicles.”
For these and other reasons the Legislative Auditor has concluded that it “is unable to say with confidence how many state-owned vehicles are currently operating within the State’s fleet.”
Let that sink in for a minute.
The legislative audit staff recommends that the state use the new OASIS Financial Asset reporting system as a clearinghouse for accurate reporting and tracking of state vehicles.
The issue has been around for a long time, and despite the damning 2009 report, the state still does not have an accurate handle on the most basic information about the vehicle fleet. That borders on absurd.
The budget challenges dictate that now more than ever government needs to be right-sized. However, that’s difficult to do with the state vehicle fleet when we can’t even figure the current size.