A legislative audit released Monday raised questions whether the Division of Corrections needs 309 vehicles — 119 of which are driven less than 1,100 miles a month.
Auditors also raised issues over 19 top Corrections officials, including the commissioner and deputy commissioner, who are allowed to commute in state vehicles, ostensibly to be able to respond to emergencies at correctional facilities.
However, auditors told the legislative Post-Audits Committee that historically, none of the 19 officials has ever had to respond from home to prison emergencies, and auditors questioned whether the emergency status is being used as a loophole to avoid reporting use of state vehicles to commute as a taxable fringe benefit on income taxes.
The audit also notes that federal IRS regulations limits commuting in government vehicles in order to be able to respond to emergencies to police, fire, and public safety officers.
“The legislative auditor is unsure how any DOC employee could qualify as a “law enforcement officer” per IRS definitions,” the audit stated.
Corrections could save $173,000 a year in vehicle lease payments by eliminating the vehicles those 19 officers are using to commute, it found.
Similarly, the audit found that Corrections is spending $522,565 a year for lease payments, maintenance costs and fees for the 115 vans, SUVs, cars and trucks that are being driven less than 1,100 miles a month each.
Corrections officials had been given until the next interim meetings to respond to the audit, but Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall, R-Putnam, instead directed that they report to the Joint Committee on Finance by Feb. 1.
“We’re doing a budget this year, and it would be nice to see these numbers reflected in that,” Hall said. “We’re interested to see if they’re buying too many cars.”
Also Monday, an audit of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office found that between fiscal years 2010 to 2014, vendors were overpaid $217,597 to transport bodies.
The audit found instances where vendors billed for excessive mileage, and overbilled when two or more bodies were transported together.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com, 304 348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.