- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2000

The Metropolitan Police Department's $3.5 million car-maintenance contract that ran about $900,000 over budget necessitates an audit, a General Services Administration official said yesterday.

Les Davison, the GSA contracting officer overseeing the contract, said an audit is necessary because until three months ago the police department did little oversight of the work being done by Serco, a car-maintenance company.

The police department entered the contract with Serco in November with the aim of saving money in maintaining its fleet of vehicles.

Mr. Davison said he expressed his concerns with police officials about the need for oversight, but nothing was done until cost overruns topped $880,000.

"I would have liked to see them monitor it differently," Mr. Davison told The Washington Times. "The police department certainly had not clambered all over Serco [to monitor the contract] and I told them that more than once."

He also testified yesterday before a D.C. Council Judiciary Committee hearing looking into mismanagement and cost overruns of the police department's vehicle maintenance.

Council member Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat and committee chairman, called for the hearing after The Times first reported that the cost overruns prevented new police cars from being put on the street and older ones from being repaired.

During the hearing, Eric Coard, director of the police department's Corporate Support Services, said police officials were not aware of the extent of the fleet's poor condition before entering the contract.

Mr. Coard said the fleet's poor condition increased the cost of maintenance.

But council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, questioned him, noting the department's own study in 1998 said the condition was "poor" and little preventive maintenance was done.

"This sounds a lot like cautionary words. I think that would have been a red flag that this fleet was in pretty bad shape," Mrs. Patterson said. "How can you explain how this report that was done in 1998 did not turn your attention to the condition of the fleet?"

Mrs. Patterson also asked Mr. Coard how much more money would be needed for the current fiscal year. Mr. Coard said the contract will cost between $4 million and $4.5 million this year, but the increase is not budgeted.

"We will have to put additional money in it," Mr. Coard said. "We will have to find the money in our existing budget."

Mr. Brazil said it appeared the contract was flawed from the beginning and things never improved.

"We are being fed a whole lot of bunk," Mr. Brazil said. "How do we deal with something like that?"

Mr. Coard also said yesterday that $51,000 worth of donated motor oil that has sat unused for more than a year will be used in oil changes beginning immediately.

The Times reported yesterday that, under the Serco contract, the department has bought motor oil instead of using 3,500 gallons of Mobil 1 synthetic motor oil donated by Mobil Corp. (now Exxon Mobil Corp.) in August 1999.

The GSA helped police officials set up the contract through an agreement with the city to reimburse GSA for its costs, Mr. Davison said. He said that under the agreement, GSA would monitor the police department's management of the Serco contract.

Because the contract is technically a GSA contract, Mr. Coard said he is trying to find out if the agency's or the city's inspector general should head the audit.

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