Raleigh, N.C. — A state audit released Tuesday says the North Carolina Department of Transportation has spent millions of dollars on heavy equipment that sits idle or is seldom used.
The DOT has approximately 2,300 pieces of heavy equipment, costing about $153 million, and more than half of those items were used less than 30 percent of the available time between Oct. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2009, according to the state auditor's report.
About one-third of the pieces, costing $56 million, were used less than 15 percent of the time during each year of the three-year period, according to the audit.
"DOT could generate significant cash and reduce the amount of direct and overheard costs if it identified and disposed of underused equipment," the audit says. "DOT could realize around $3.5 million by selling half of the equipment (about 390 pieces) that was used less than 15% of the time during the year ending September 30, 2009."
Idle and seldom used equipment problems exist, in part, because the DOT has not established a goal or expectation for usage rates, the audit found. Also, the department "lacks specific written policies and procedures that direct managers to identify and report underutilized equipment or instruct managers on what corrective action to take."
In his written response, state Transportation Secretary Gene Conti agreed with the auditor's findings and said underused equipment "needs to be assessed and disposed when appropriate." Last year, during the time of the audit, the DOT sold 540 pieces of large equipment for $5.7 million.
State Highway Administrator Terry Gibson said the changes must not put public safety in jeopardy.
"We have to be there for hurricanes ... we have to be there for snow storms in the west, for the rock slides (and) we have to be there for the floods," Gibson said. "So some of our equipment, we're going to have that around,"
Some of our equipment is not going to have a lot of utilization because of the way we have to use it," he continued. "We're not going to sacrifice public safety."