RICHMOND, VA – Richmond Mayor Douglas Wilder said he’s happy about a new audit that casts a harsh light on management of the city’s vehicle fleet, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch. At the same time, Wilder said he would look closely at potential criminal behavior in employee use of fuel at public expense and would call for help from the police and commonwealth’s attorney’s office if he needs it.

The audit raises concerns about an absence of leadership and a poor grasp of crucial information about the fleet, unnecessary spending on premium fuel and vehicle maintenance, and generally loose oversight of everything from fuel use to parts purchases. Wilder welcomed the audit and defended his administration’s efforts to correct longstanding problems in fleet services. He also said the audit, based on the fiscal year that ended June 30, didn’t reflect efforts the city has made since then to tighten control of fleet services.

However, Wilder and Chief Financial Officer Harry Black acknowledged that the administration made mistakes that were reflected in the audit’s findings, including a change in policy for fuel cards that inadvertently reduced the city’s ability to track an employee’s use of gasoline at public expense, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch. The administration eliminated the use of employee fuel cards in March 2006 because of concerns that more than 6,000 cards had been issued to a work force of 4,500. The change reduced the number of cards to 3,500, tying them to vehicles and equipment. The plan was to incorporate a requirement for a personal identification number for employees to enter while fueling to provide individual accountability. That didn’t happen, although the city plans to impose that requirement soon.

The audit found 645 instances in which employees pumped more fuel than the vehicle could hold — in one case, almost 45 gallons for a car with a 16-gallon gasoline tank. It also found 160 instances in which a vehicle fuel card was used many times in one day.

The city also is carrying out plans to change the way it buys parts and other vehicle supplies, issue a new contract for fuel, and ask for proposals to turn fleet management over to a private company. Also, the audit estimates potential savings of $2.6 million a year by outsourcing fleet management with proper oversight by the city.