- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

The D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) division that maintains the city’s fleet of 3,000 government-owned vehicles has lost track of more than a dozen vehicles over the years and has done little to keep officials from racking up unauthorized mileage, a new government audit has found.

The Fleet Management Administration (FMA) also failed to comply with regulations that require a complete physical inventory and inspection of the city’s fleet of vehicles twice each year, an audit by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General shows. The fleet of vehicles is worth about $83 million.

“FMA could not provide us with a reasonable assurance that it could account for all District vehicles under the agency’s responsibility,” the auditors wrote. “FMA officials told us that a physical inventory was too time-consuming and burdensome.”

Lloyd Carter, the DPW vehicle control officer, declined to comment Wednesday, saying he had not seen the audit. Other DPW officials also did not respond.

In a written response to D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, DPW Director William O. Howland Jr. said officials are updating the city’s vehicle inventory.

D.C. officials conducted periodic “round-up inventory database updates” but didn’t track down missing vehicles, the audit shows.

In one case, the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) reported that it no longer had 30 of its 122 cars. In response, the FMA deactivated the fuel keys. But the inspector general said there was no further action to locate the vehicles.

Some vehicles were found eventually, but auditors said 13 haven’t been located.

In addition, the inspector general found that the fleet division didn’t do enough to safeguard vehicles, saying that on three occasions keys were seen left on a counter accessible to the public.

According to the audit, there have been at least two instances of city employees stealing vehicles.

The audit also found that fleet managers did not have controls in place to ensure that city officials didn’t rack up unauthorized miles on government vehicles.

The audit identified more than 23,000 unexplained miles on city vehicles, but investigators did not note any specific examples of misuse.

The audit also noted accounting irregularities in records for auctioned city vehicles.

From 2001 to 2005, D.C. records show 589 vehicles sold for $1.1 million, while auction company sales reports show 785 vehicles sold for $1.4 million, the audit notes.

Mr. Howland said officials are working with DHS to locate the 13 missing vehicles.

Mr. Howland stated in his letter that another vehicle assigned to the FMA has been reported missing. He said the department will “re-emphasize to staff the importance of securing keys at all times.”

He also stated that the department is planning to hire a lead fleet coordinator, hold training sessions and update its policies.

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