- Associated Press - Monday, January 9, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia’s chief medical examiner has been paying too much to transport the dead and too many state prison officials drive state vehicles, according to audit reports released Monday.

The Legislative Post Audit Division said the state sometimes paid vendors for taking bodies to wrong locations and paid excessive mileage reimbursement and additional fees for transporting two or more bodies together. The Office of Chief Medical Examiner overpaid transporters $217,597 over five years and the Department of Health and Human Resources should request money back, the report said.

The legislative auditor also found some duplicate payments, as well as state reimbursements for “wait time at the scene,” which are not allowed.

The department’s Bureau for Public Health will be exploring its options regarding the report, spokeswoman Allison Adler said.

Another report said the Division of Corrections should evaluate its need for 115 of its vehicles that don’t meet the state threshold of traveling 1,100 miles monthly.

The legislative auditor also questioned 19 vehicles assigned to high-level officials, including the commissioner, who commute in them and historically have never responded to emergencies. The state can save up to $173,000 in monthly lease payments by having those officials drive their own cars or take vehicles from the division’s car pool, though it might be less due to expense reimbursements, the report said.

The auditor recommended leaving 22 take-home vehicles with the division’s 22 K-9 officers, who must use them to transport their dogs and do respond to emergencies.

The report said the division also doesn’t properly assess the appropriate taxable fringe benefit for personal use of the state vehicles.

The 115 vehicles that are considered underused include vans, cars, light-duty trucks and sport-utility vehicles, all of which cost the state about $523,000 annually in lease payments, operating costs and administration fees.

Corrections officials declined to respond Monday beyond their written response to auditors. They said earlier that the commissioner and 40 employees are required to take state vehicles home because their official duties require them to be capable of responding immediately to emergency situations anywhere in the state.

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