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Auditors find fault in Island Transit vehicle, fuel use
For the second time, state auditors question how Island Transit monitors staff use of take-home vehicles and fuel cards.
According to an accountability audit report issued Dec. 30 by the Washington State Auditor’s Office, a finding was issued 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 designated for take-home.
Island Transit previously 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, (Island) 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 said she was caught off guard by the audit findings.
“I was kind of surprised,” she said.
Island Transit had implemented policies that the auditors requested from the prior audit, Rose said.
“We thought we were moving along well.”
Several Island Transit employees take vehicles home because it’s effective to respond to service needs. Staff live in all parts of the island. For example, during times of severe weather, she said, staff who need to inspect road conditions can respond faster from their homes.
Auditors issued Island Transit a similar finding in 2011, and said in the latest report they consider the issue unresolved.
Island Transit officials responded in the accountability report to the auditor’s finding.
According to the Island Transit response, 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 Outlying Field. Specific staff will be allowed to fuel vehicles at the headquarters.
Reports will outline which employee fueled a vehicle and the mileage made since the last refueling, which will allow staff to monitor fuel use, according Island Transit’s response.
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 reasonability 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.
“We feel this is an issue that needs to be clarified in the RCW,” Rose said in an interview last week.
During the 2011 audit, auditors also found that transit didn’t follow bid policies and didn’t have policies related to the approval and monitoring of change orders.
Since the findings were issued, auditors noted that Island Transit had one public works project totaling $22 million. Auditors reviewed the project and found officials complied with procurement and bid law as well as with prevailing wage requirements.
The Washington State Auditor’s Office examined Island Transit’s records from Jan. 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2012. Auditors examined areas that represented the highest risk of noncompliance, misappropriation or misuse, according to the report.
Areas examined include vehicle and fuel use, fuel expenditures, fleet management, payroll, disbursement and the Open Public Meetings Act.