WRAL Investigates

State leaders upset with management of state-owned cars

Posted December 14, 2010 5:44 p.m. EST
Updated December 14, 2010 6:41 p.m. EST

WRAL Investigates

— Gov. Beverly Perdue and incoming House Speaker Thom Tillis expressed frustration this week with the slow pace of change in how state agencies manage the cost of state-owned vehicles.

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.

A 2009 WRAL News investigation found that the Department of Correction paid for one car that sat idle for five straight months and other agencies also paid for vehicles that were underutilized.

The series of reports prompted Perdue to call for changes, and a panel she appointed to root out waste in state government even reviewed Motor Fleet Management operations.

Yet, a year later, departments are still paying millions of dollars for unused miles.

"I'm not happy with any of this," Perdue said Monday. "It boggles the mind that people can't come up with solutions that make common sense, that get the job done. That's what I've instructed, and I hope they understand that."

Agencies have appointed vehicle coordinators to better monitor vehicle use, and Motor Fleet Management has set up an online calculator to guide agencies on whether a state lease, a private lease or a personal vehicle is the most efficient way to travel.

Various agencies argue that they need vehicles for fewer than 1,050 miles a month. The DOC, for example, has filed for 2,000 exemptions from the mileage requirement.

"That makes no sense to me. If you have 2,000 exemptions, perhaps you shouldn't have an exemption category that applies," Perdue said.

With the state facing a projected $3.7 billion deficit, Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said Tuesday that lawmakers would consider changing the minimum mileage formula and search for any way to reduce travel costs.

"We have to pick up every crumb everywhere that it exists to try and get this problem solved," he said. "Anything and everything is on the table. When we said that, we meant it."

Speros Fleggas, deputy secretary of the state Department of Administration, which oversees the motor fleet, said it's too early to see improvements from the changes that were implemented several months ago.

Perdue said she wants more accountability in the use of state-owned vehicles and believes that changes will help.

"It may not all be perfect, but I do know that they're on the right path to having it solved," she said.

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