A recent audit of San Diego County's fleet operations found issues with vehicle acquisition timelines. The department pointed to the effects of the pandemic.  -  Photo: Canva/San Diego County/Government Fleet

A recent audit of San Diego County's fleet operations found issues with vehicle acquisition timelines. The department pointed to the effects of the pandemic.

Photo: Canva/San Diego County/Government Fleet

The fleet management department for the County of San Diego was recently audited, with the Office of Audits & Advisory Services (OAAS) making several recommendations on ways the department could improve its operations.

About the Audit

OAAS completed the audit of the Department of General Services (DGS) Fleet Management Division. The objective was to identify and assess performance goals and evaluate the adequacy of performance metrics and management controls in place to monitor and achieve goals related to vehicle procurement and maintenance.

The scope of the audit included a review of the department's performance metrics, vehicle acquisition and monitoring, vehicle management fees, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registrations and renewals, and vehicle maintenance during fiscal years 2018-19 through 2021-22.

You can view the full audit here.

Audit Findings: Fleet Management Controls Need Improvement

OOAS published six key findings. Those include:

  • Performance Metrics Require Further Development
  • Vehicle Acquisition Process Needs Improvement
  • Inconsistency of Asset Management Fees
  • Deficiencies in Vehicle Maintenance
  • Timeliness of DMV Registration Renewals Not Ideal
  • Opportunities to Improve True-Up Process

Here are details on a few of the findings.

Consistent Performance Metrics Lacking

The auditor determined that while fleet management has developed strong performance measures related to the evaluation and expansion of its EV fleet and infrastructure, the department overall lacked consistent performance metrics related to standard vehicle acquisition, vehicle utilization, and maintenance. The audit found that the metrics lacked specific baselines and targets to accurately measure the performance of key operational areas within the department.

In its findings, the audit stated, "Where baselines have been established, Fleet is unsure if they are an accurate indicator of acceptable performance." The audit also found that found that the department has not established a specific metric or goal for the time to process a vehicle order until after it has been submitted to the Department of Purchasing and Contracting (DPC).

The audit also found that order completion targets had not been met. During fiscal year 2020-21, the department was only able to deliver 16% of standard vehicle orders compared to its goal of delivering 85% of orders. Fleet noted this goal was not met due to the operational impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as manufacturer plants were temporarily closed. The department responded saying it believes this goal is not a reliable benchmark to measure performance and amended the Operational Plan goal in FY 2021-22 to benchmark vehicle delivery against the acquisition cycles established in the Fleet Manual.

The audit also pointed out that the department has not established reliable benchmarks to effectively evaluate vehicle acquisition time, vehicle underutilization, and customer satisfaction.

Department's Response

The department noted the need of reliable performance measures and benchmarks and has been working to identify and further develop key metrics.

Vehicle Acquisition Process Timeline Concerns

The audit noted that as of February 2022, the department was not providing formal periodic updates regarding the status of outstanding orders to all departments, and that departmental inquiries regarding order status were not always responded to in a timely manner. OAAS determined that that the procedures did not include steps on providing vehicle order status updates to departments, or how vehicle orders are prioritized when initially received.

The audit noted that as a best practice, all key aspects of a department's operations should be clearly documented in an up-to-date procedures manual.

OOAS reviewed vehicle orders from recent fiscal years, noting that at the time of the audit, 70% of orders from fiscal year 2020-21 were still in progress.

In a sample of 20 vehicle orders, OOAS noted:

  • 16 orders had more than 90 days pass between when the department received the vehicle order until a contract request was sent to DPC to begin the procurement process.
  • 10 orders were not completed within the department's acquisition cycle timeframe.
  • One order was received in October 2020 and approved in November 2020 but had not been sent to DPC to begin the procurement process by February 2022.

Department's Response

COVID-19 has had a significant effect on vehicle supply chains and overall vehicle supply that has resulted in large delays. Staffing changes also contributed to disruptions in fleet operations.

Specifically, two fleet chiefs have left the department within the last few years and there has been turnover with Fleet Standards Technicians. In addition, fleet management acknowledged that vehicle order tracking in prior years was suboptimal resulting in lost orders and delays.

Vehicle Maintenance Policies and Procedures not Finalized, Shared with Technicians

Based on a review of the department's vehicle maintenance policies and procedures, as well as discussions with fleet and client staff, OAAS identified that the prior fleet chief had developed policies and procedures to distribute to all fleet garage staff and technicians. However, they were not finalized nor provided to garage staff or technicians.

Fleet technician vacancies and staffing issues, as well as a 4-day/10-hour per day schedule has caused staffing issues and maintenance delays.

Department's Response

As of December 2021, the fleet department indicated there were over 700 past due maintenance services. OAAS observed fleet has been collaborating with departments to effectively reduce the quantity of past due maintenance services. According to Fleet, as of May 2022, the number of past due services had been reduced to 393.

According to the department, COVID-19 increased the number of sick days used by fleet staff and affected the ability of other county staff to bring in vehicles for scheduled preventive maintenance. In addition, the implementation of the 4-day/10-hour schedule has resulted in an increase of vacation requests or callouts to extend time-off, leading to a lack of adequate maintenance coverage. The introduction of teleworking schedules during the time of the audit also impacted the ability of other county staff to bring in vehicles for preventive maintenance.

Fleet Response Letter

The fleet department responded to the audit's recommendations. In response to the performance metrics suggestions, the department said it partially agrees with the finding. The finding referred to three areas where specific baselines and targets are needed to indicate acceptable performance: acquisitions, utilization, and maintenance. The fleet department said it believes it has established adequate baselines and targets for utilization and maintenance. It also noted that in July 2022, the acquisitions section began providing clients with monthly email updates.

The department agreed with OOAS' findings regarding needed acquisition procedural changes. Those include a process performed to prioritize vehicles ordered, as well as details steps to track the status and follow-up on open vehicle orders, among other changes. The auditor also recommended the department continue efforts with its existing  software vendor, AssetWorks, and utilize more of its services on its software.

Regarding maintenance, the department agreed with the auditor's suggestion to review the current draft of the maintenance procedures and update as necessary, then distribute to fleet garage team members. The current draft of the procedures was being reviewed and edited at the time of the audit's publication. The department also agreed to utilize its AssetWorks software to provide additional information to clients regarding work order status.

About the author
Christy Grimes

Christy Grimes

Senior Editor

Christy Grimes is a Senior Editor at Bobit, working on Automotive Fleet and Government Fleet publications. She has also written for School Bus Fleet.

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