Audit on state vehicles’ use for commuting calls for putting brakes on privileges

Commuting to and from work usually don’t come with any real perks.

More often than not it’s an additional expense you calculate into your budget.

That is, unless you are one of nearly 500 privileged public employees who drove state vehicles last year back and forth to work.

An audit released Sunday during legislative interim meetings in Charleston is best described as “in your face” to taxpayers, as one delegate put it.

The audit was only able to track about 50 of those nearly 500 state employees’ use of state vehicles for business and nonbusiness use.

Despite this audit there is still a lot more that we don’t know about the state vehicle fleet’s usage than we do know.

Lenient reporting requirements, lack of a law mandating agencies separately track work and personal use and even exemptions for certain agencies fog up every window on this issue.

We do know that well more than half of state employees using state vehicles for personal use work in the departments of Transportation and Commerce — nearly 350 of them.

Also, the 52 workers who used state vehicles the audit could analyze, determined that 30 percent of the time they were using them for nonbusiness travel — 2,309 miles out of 7,865.

The audit also discovered that agencies underreported to the IRS the value of commuting as a taxable fringe benefit for about half of the nearly 500 state employees.

One state senator called for altogether ending the use of state vehicles for commuting.

It’s apparent the need for a law to require all state agencies to keep diligent records on business and nonbusiness mileage is long overdue.

The departments of Transportation and Commerce also should tighten requirements on how they administer their employees use of state vehicles.

And no state agency should be exempt from any and all Fleet Management regulations.

This audit also reported findings that give us less reason to pause about whether the Legislature should be reviewing the Supreme Court’s spending.

Though this court is the ultimate arbiter of law in West Virginia, its justices and staff ethics about traveling on the public dime are suspect.

The audit’s findings point to everything from justices using state vehicles to commute to one administrator racking up $11,000 in rental car expenses.

Justices also reserved court vehicles without giving a purpose or destination a score of times in this audit.

We’re well past the point of just attempting to put the brakes on the use of state vehicles.

It may be time to take the keys away from state employees for all but business use.

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