Changes ordered to charges for state-owned cars
Posted November 4, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina officials have ordered changes in how state agencies are charged for the use of state-owned vehicles, two years after a WRAL News investigation found agencies were paying for vehicles that sat idle.
Agencies lease vehicles from the state Motor Fleet Management Division. By law, the division charges for a monthly minimum of 1,050 miles per car and more for each mile over that. The cost covers maintenance, insurance and gas.
However, if cars travel fewer than 1,050 miles a month, agencies must still pay the flat rate.
Moses Carey, secretary of the state Department of Administration, which oversees the motor fleet, issued a memo Tuesday to agency heads removing the monthly minimum, effective Jan. 1. Instead, Motor Fleet Management will bill agencies only for the miles driven, along with a $35 monthly charge per vehicle to cover insurance.
"We believe that this is a more appropriate model for these times," Carey wrote. "It appears that nearly every agency will save money."
In 2009, WRAL Investigates pored over thousands of driving logs for motor fleet vehicles and found agencies spending millions of taxpayer dollars to go nowhere. The Department of Correction, for example, paid $2,000 for one car that sat idle for five straight months.
When another search of driving logs last year revealed little change, Gov. Beverly Perdue and House Speaker Thom Tillis both expressed frustration at management of state-owned vehicles. Perdue had asked a panel she appointed to root out waste in state government to review Motor Fleet Management operations.
Speros Fleggas, deputy secretary of the state Department of Administration, said the new policy will likely save the state $3 million to $4 million a year.
The excess money Motor Fleet Management collected previously went into a reserve account for the division. Lawmakers pulled $30 million from that account this year to help balance the budget, but that probably won't happen next year under the new rules, Fleggas said.
"Motor Fleet is not there to make a profit," he said.
Fleggas and Anne Bander, chief operating officer of the Department of Administration, said the new rules will take pressure off agencies under travel restrictions or those that use vehicles seasonally and for short trips.
"I think we're all trying to look for ways to do things more efficiently and cost effectively," Bander said.
Officials aren't concerned that they won't be able to cover the cost of vehicles.
"We've really peeled the onion about as much as we could," Bander said.