- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2011

City officials for several years have ignored the letter and the spirit of laws governing procurement and use of “luxury-class” SUVs, a D.C. Council member said in a draft report issued Monday.

Tommy Wells has been investigating the use of SUVs by city officials since reports surfaced about vehicles procured for Mayor Vincent C. Gray and council Chairman Kwame R. Brown.

The Washington Post in February reported that at one point, Mr. Brown had two “fully loaded,” city-leased Lincoln Navigators at his disposal, the first with interior not to his liking.

Mr. Wells, Ward 6 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, issued preliminary findings critical of the procurements in February, some of which were reflected in the 19-page report dated Sunday.

Mr. Wells said officials for several years have not followed laws about SUVs regarding fuel efficiency, authorized use, authorized drivers, and procurement of vehicles with nonstandard options.

“The spirit of the law has similarly been ignored, which impacts our commitment to good government and significantly undermines this government’s credibility with the public,” the report says.

Among the findings:

• The Department of Public Works (DPW), which manages the city’s non-emergency vehicle fleet, failed to require written certifications that added options on luxury-class vehicles were essential to the user’s mission.

DPW failed to recognize improper billing on more than one occasion. In the case of Mr. Brown’s Lincoln Navigator, it resulted in prepayment for a vehicle the District subsequently returned.

• The District has procured vehicles expressly prohibited by city law that do not clearly meet exceptions for security, emergency, rescue or armored vehicles.

• The District has procured vehicles that violate fuel-efficiency standards expressly required by city law.

DPW has failed to develop centralized fleet management as required by a 2000 mayor’s order - a failure previously identified by both the inspector general and the Office of the Auditor.

The report also says city agencies are not properly monitoring to whom vehicles are assigned. The lack of accountability means employees are not being held responsible when city cars get ticketed.

It says D.C. Public Schools identified 43 outstanding tickets, of which 35 tickets totaling $3,475 could not be traced to any employee.

“Other agencies, such as the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration and the Department of Human Resources identified dozens of unpaid tickets as well,” the report says.

The report acknowledged that DPW has made significant progress consolidating fleet vehicles into the Fleet Share program.

“Without question, however, further steps are needed to properly manage the District’s fleet,” it said.

Among other recommendations, it calls on the mayor to require standards for certifying that vehicles larger than compact class are “essential to the agency’s mission” and on city agencies to better track vehicles assigned to employees.

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