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State dings Island Transit with finding
For the second time, state auditors are questioning Island Transit officials on how they monitor staff uses of take-home vehicles and fuel cards.
According to an Accountability Audit Report issued Dec. 30 by the Washington State Auditor’s Office, agency regulators issued a finding stating Island Transit officials “did not adequately monitor take-home vehicles and fuel card use to ensure they are only used for official purposes.”
Island Transit has 14 vehicles and fuel use cards assigned to be taken home. Island Transit implemented a policy stating vehicles and cards can only be used for official purposes. According to the report, however auditors found:
• Transit didn’t adequately monitor vehicle and fuel use. Employees are required to report mileage on a weekly basis, but 11 of the 12 home vehicles tested didn’t report mileage every week.
• Of the mileage that was reported, fuel use and purchases were not reconciled to miles logged on vehicles to determine if the assigned vehicle is used only for official business.
• Employees with assigned vehicles didn’t document where they were driving the vehicle and for what purpose.
• Six vehicles were not marked as transit assets “for official use” as required by state law.
“Without adequate monitoring of vehicle and fuel use, the Transit cannot ensure that assigned take-home vehicles are used only for official purposes. As a result, assigned vehicles could be used for activities not related to Transit business,” the report states.
Island Transit Executive Director Martha Rose was caught off-guard by the finding.
“I was kind of surprised,” Rose said.
Island Transit was implementing changes auditors requested from the first audit when the second finding was issued, she said.
“We thought we were moving along well,” Rose said.
Rose said several employees take vehicles home because it’s a very effective way to respond to service needs. Staff live on all areas of the island. As an example, she said during times of severe weather, staff can respond faster from their homes to check road conditions.
Auditors gave Island Transit a similar finding in 2011 and they consider the issue unresolved, according to the report.
Island Transit officials also responded in the accountability report to the auditors’ finding.
Officials implemented a new fueling system including data collection that allows staff to track fuel use on each vehicle. Vehicles stationed on Whidbey Island will be fueled at Island Transit’s campus near the Outlying Field. Specific staff will be allowed to fuel vehicles at the headquarters. Reports will outline which employee fueled a vehicle and the mileage driven since the last refueling, which will allow staff to monitor fuel use, according to Transit’s response in the report.
Transit officials will implement a procedure where people with “take-home vehicles” provide an end-of-shift report describing vehicle use and the number of miles traveled. That information will be reviewed for reasonableness and reconciled with fuel use to ensure vehicles are used for official business, according to the report.
Rose added that a new fuel system will come online in 2014 at Island Transit’s new headquarters which will provide a better way for staff to monitor fuel use.
As for the marking of vehicles, Island Transit said it uses some vehicles for investigative purposes. It aids local law enforcement in investigating potential illegal activity or vandalism at Island Transit facilities.
Transit officials are looking to the legislature to address the marking of transit vehicles.