- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

BALTIMORE (AP) — Failure by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to monitor drunken drivers, often allowing them to go back to driving before they were supposed to, was among many failings by the agency uncovered by a state audit.

According to the audit, conducted by the Department of Legislative Services, the MVA granted licenses to drivers who presented the Social Security numbers of dead people; waited an average of 115 days to suspend the registrations of vehicles found to be uninsured, even though state law requires that such suspensions be immediate; and failed to revoke the driving privileges of some parents who were late in paying child support, as state law requires.

Also, the MVA waived $824,000 in fines that it should have collected from auto dealerships for late payment of registration and title fees charged to buyers of vehicles.

The department called the MVA’s overall performance “unsatisfactory.” The audit covered Jan. 1, 2004, to Nov. 30, 2006.

Bruce A. Myers, head of the Office of Legislative Audits, said he was especially concerned about the MVA’s dealings with the Ignition Interlock Program, which is designed to prevent drivers convicted of alcohol-related violations from starting their cars while intoxicated.

In some cases, the devices were not installed.

“MVA failed to take appropriate follow-up action for certain individuals who repeatedly violated the terms of the program,” Mr. Myers wrote, “and such individuals were subsequently returned to normal driving status.”

Before Aug. 1, the agency did not have a system to ensure that it was notified of all violations that required use of the ignition program, MVA officials said in a written response. Now, with a new procedure in place, the officials wrote, the MVA’s ignition-interlock case manager can monitor each case for 30 days “to make sure a restricted driver license has been issued and an ignition interlock device installed.”

“We are working to come into complete compliance with the spirit and intent” of the audit, MVA spokesman Buel C. Young said. He said that the agency has made 16 of the recommended changes and that six more improvements are under way.

In another problem area, investigators found that, in the period audited, at least 178 drivers who should have been suspended for child-support violations were not.

The audit said the MVA often failed to follow its guidelines for requiring proper identification of license applicants. In a test of 35 licenses processed during the audit period, investigators found that complete documentation to establish identity and proof of residency was not obtained in 10 cases. Auditors also found 16 persons “who were issued licenses even though the related Social Security numbers were associated with deceased individuals.”

The MVA is a unit of the Maryland Department of Transportation. It has about 1,600 employees in 24 offices. In fiscal 2006, the MVA collected about $1.3 billion, mostly in vehicle excise taxes and vehicle registration fees.

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