JACKSON, MS - Recent reports from the City of Jackson's internal audit division reveal apparent widespread lack of oversight of the city's vehicle fleet, according The Clarion-Ledger.
Two audits were released to The Clarion-Ledger based on open-records requests show about $84,200 worth of "lost" JATRAN bus tires, 29 missing vehicles in the Jackson Police Department and 83 employees who drive city vehicles but have no state driver's license or city driver's permit.
The audits come only weeks after the city acknowledged widespread misuse of its Fuelman discount gas cards.
"These are long-standing problems within the city," said Valerie Nevels, the head of the internal audit division. "We are trying to take positive steps to correct all of these problems."
Nevels recently briefed the Jackson City Council at a meeting on a recent citywide attempt to inventory Jackson's fleet of 1,020 cars, trucks and vans. The city held five counting sessions between Sept. 12 and Oct. 24.
According to the audit, 248 vehicles did not show up to be counted. Since then, the city has whittled the number of unaccounted for vehicles to 29. All of those vehicles are in the Jackson Police Department fleet.
Nevels said the city still is looking for the vehicles and that she does not think they were stolen.
Assistant Chief Lee Vance said the department's last inventory, revealed six vehicles were unaccounted for. After further review, Vance said all six vehicles had been auctioned but were not taken off the inventory list.
"To my knowledge, there has never been a vehicle that couldn't be accounted for. With the (six) in question, we seemed to be able to trace them back to glitches in paperwork," Vance said. "We don't know anything about 29 missing vehicles."
The audit also revealed that when a sampling of drivers and vehicles were inspected, 83 employees were driving city vehicles without driver's licenses or city permits while 45 vehicles had problems with their vehicle tags, ranging from no tag at all to an expired tag.
Councilman Charles Tillman questioned City officials about how so many city vehicle tags could be out of order. "That's against the law," he said.
Chief Administrative Officer Robert Walker replied: "It is. I don't know how that happened."
Walker and Nevels told the council the city is considering several options to regain control of the fleet. For example, the city could create a new department to oversee all transportation-related issues or hire a fleet manager.
The city also is planning to conduct annual audits of the fleet. City officials said it had been years since the fleet was last audited.
A separate audit showed the city owed thousands of dollars to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for bus tires the city cannot find.
According to the audit, Goodyear Tire is charging the city about $84,215 for 268 "lost" tires. The audit says the city may have grounds to protest payment for 11 of those tires.
The reports follow a recent spotlight on the city's mismanagement of its gas cards.
Jackson uses the Fuelman discount gas program to fill up all city-owned and city-operated vehicles.
A report obtained by The Clarion-Ledger showed that from July to October, 945 of the 1,088 employees authorized to use a card made questionable purchases, resulting in about 24,260 flagged transactions.
Councilman Jeff Weill said the council's budget committee is planning to hold a meeting to get an update on the problems with Fuelman.
Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon said the problems with the City's fleet have cast a bad light on many honest City employees.
"What it does is give every city employee a black eye," she said.