The Massachusetts Department of Transportation was the subject of a recent scathing audit by the state’s Inspector General that accused the agency of mismanaging its fleet, misusing tax dollars and violating state laws.
Here’s a few highlights from the report, which you can read in full here. Warning: you might find it even more infuriating than a day at the RMV. Incidentally, some MassDOT employees get to avoid the RMV because, according to the audit, they drive MassDOT vehicles for their own personal use, don’t keep their emissions stickers up to date, and use MassDOT facilities to make their own license plates:
• The federal government gave MassDOT $3.4 million to purchase 107 alternative fuel vehicles. Those vehicles were supposed to replace older model Crown Victorias in the agency’s fleet. Here’s what happened next:
– 25 alternative fuel vehicles were retired
– 8 Crown Vics were simply reassigned to other employees or the motor pool
– 6 Crown Vics were retired
– The report also notes that MassDOT may not even have 107 Crown Vics to retire.
• In regards to gas-powered vehicle purchases, MassDOT bought seven 2014 Ford Explorers outfitted with nearly $10,000 worth of upgrades that included leather interiors, voice-activated entertainment systems and a state police emergency equipment package. Of those seven cars designated for state police:
– 1 was given to the state police
– 6 were given to senior Highway Division employees, who are not state police officers.
– 1 of those 6 was given to the manager who approved the Explorer purchases in the first place.
• Some MassDOT employees who work at the agency’s Boston headquarters park their state vehicles at parking meters. All day. For free! Metered parking spots can be so difficult to find around here that there are now apps built on selling them.
• Many of the MassDOT employees given state vehicles did not appear to have jobs that merited a car. Many who were allowed to take cars home to respond to emergencies did not actually do so. Some employees had multiple cars assigned to them.
• As for employees who were not allowed to take cars home, some parked their vehicles in MassDOT lots near their homes and used them for commuting anyway.
• All MassDOT vehicles are required to have official state license plates, but several had commercial or passenger plates instead. This, the audit said, “makes it easier to use the cars for personal business.’’
• Some of the MassDOT cars had state plates that were made in the agency’s road sign shop, despite the fact that MassDOT employees are not allowed to just make their own license plates.
• Many of these issues were allowed to persist because MassDOT does not follow the fleet vehicle management policies most state executive branches adhere to, and the agency has yet to implement its own policy, which was written back in 2012.
MassDOT told The Boston Globe that it will adopt a ‘vehicle use policy’ soon — presumably sooner than the two years it’s taken to do so up until now — and fix some of the issues raised by the audit by the end of the week. A spokesperson defended the use of commercial instead of state plates, saying it was for security purposes. Even so, those cars will be getting state plates “to enhance transparency.’’
As for the excessive number of cars employees are allowed to take home, MassDOT maintains that those are necessary in winter months so that employees can get to work in snow or icy conditions. Those employees are only allowed to take the cars home from December 1 until May 31.
May seems like an unlikely time for a snowstorm, but it could happen! According to the National Weather Service, it has not snowed in Boston in May in 37 years. Before then, it had not snowed in May in Boston since record keeping began in 1891.
Correction: This article originally referred to the RMV as the DMV because its author is from Connecticut.