- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2001

The District last year spent $33,500 to repair a street sweeper that it sold for $600 and sold a van worth an estimated $1,700 for $25, according to an inspector generals audit.
In addition, the D.C. Department of Public Works spent $160,536 to repair 10 old sweepers when it should have used the money to buy new ones, the audit determined. New sweepers run about $85,000 each.
The audit was also critical of the lack of management controls on the sale of old cars — oversights that could lead to "fraud and abuse." The audit concludes the city has not been getting full value for its old cars.
Inspector General Charles C. Maddox also criticized DPW for mismanagement of its fleet maintenance operation, saying the departments mechanics were not trained and that preventative maintenance of vehicles was not done.
Leslie Hotaling, acting DPW director, said Wednesday she realized there are numerous problems within the department, and she is working to make reforms. She said that the poor condition of the fleet and the departments garage is due to insufficient funding in years past.
"I think it indicates a historical lack of investment the city has made in its own equipment," she said. "This is a systematic examination of what it takes."
Ms. Hotaling said she welcomed the inspector generals criticisms, which she said would help her to implement reforms within the department.
Ms. Hotaling said no one has been reassigned or fired as a result of the audit.
She said the audit will help her make the improvements necessary to put DPW in a position to take over the troubled fleet maintenance operations of the police department. Members of the D.C. Council, frustrated by police department mismanagement of its fleet maintenance contract with a private firm, have suggested that DPW begin repairing police vehicles.
"I basically have told the council that DPW has work to do to get ourselves in order before we take on the police and fire department," she said. "Maybe in the next six months to a year."
A General Services Administration audit released last week said the police department has mismanaged the contract since September 1999 by putting unqualified managers in charge. An ongoing Washington Times investigation has found that the contract was over the budget by more than $1 million due to mismanagement.
The DPW repairs all city vehicles except those operated by police, fire and Emergency Medical Services. DPW charges the other city agencies for the repairs and is supposed to keep the vehicles maintained through maintenance schedules.
The inspector general found that there were few controls over the disposal of old vehicles, and there were no guidelines established on whether to repair or dispose of vehicles. Mr. Maddox said in the report that a decision should have been made before thousands of dollars were spent on the street sweepers.
The auditors also said DPWs documentation of disposed vehicles was incomplete, and in some cases valuable vehicles were sold "for whatever the customers who attend that months auction bid on the vehicle."
The auditors also found that DPW charged other city agencies for parts not installed and that parts were being removed from the parts department without proper documentation and authority.
The auditors found that many DPW employees did not have the training or certification to do their jobs. The audit said welders, tire repairmen and part attendants were used as mechanics to repair city vehicles.
The audit concludes that parts department employees are incompetent and do not have experience buying and stocking parts. None of the employees received any formal training.
"The mechanics stated that because the majority of the parts department employees do not have a background in parts, they often say that parts are not in stock and must be ordered. According to mechanics … the parts are in stock, but inexperienced employees cannot identify them," the audit says.
The inspector general also found that the citys heavy equipment was not being properly maintained. The auditors reviewed the service records of 72 pieces of heavy equipment and found that 48 were not maintained according to maintenance schedules.
Nor were maintenance schedules followed for other vehicles — some had not been serviced in two years.
"As a result, many agency vehicles are not sent to the garage for regular preventive maintenance and are not seen by mechanics until a major breakdown occurs," the auditors said.


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