The Government Accountability Office has released a report recommending that federal agencies improve processes to identify underutilized vehicles in the government’s fleet of nearly 450,000.
From fiscal years 2011 through 2015, federal agencies spent in excess of $1.6 billion to purchase approximately 64,500 passenger vehicles and light trucks which cost an average of $25,600 each. Ninety percent of those vehicles were purchased by five departments—Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Justice, and Interior—and those departments spent approximately the same percentage of the associated funds.
In fiscal year 2015, federal agencies spent approximately $3.4 billion to maintain and operate their government-owned vehicles.
The GAO study sought to identify federally owned vehicles and examine the processes for assessing their utilization. Three agencies were reviewed in the study—Navy within DOD, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) within DHS, and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) within USDA—with the goal of determining if vehicles were utilized during fiscal year 2015.
The Navy determined that all of their 3,652 vehicles selected for review were utilized by applying criteria for mileage and individual justification of vehicle use.
According to the report, “CBP did not determine if 1,862 (81 percent) of its 2,300 selected vehicles were utilized in fiscal year 2015 even though the vehicles did not meet DHS’s minimum mileage criteria.”
CBP officials contended that the agency “did not have criteria to measure these vehicles’ utilization because it was difficult to manually collect the data needed to establish appropriate criteria and assess if vehicles met those criteria.”
Although the CBP is currently installing devices in many of its vehicles that will facilitate collection of such data, the agency does not have a specific plan to utilize the data to determine if vehicles are utilized.
The report also revealed that the “NRCS did not determine if 579 (9 percent) of its 6,223 selected vehicles were utilized in fiscal year 2015. USDA and NRCS fleet officials stated that the agency did not annually assess vehicle utilization, nor did it apply USDA criteria such as mileage or days used.”
USDA and NRCS officials claim to have been unaware of the USDA’s policy requiring these actions because “the policy had not been widely discussed or shared within USDA since 2012.”
According to the report, CBP and NRCS cumulatively incurred approximately $13.5 million in depreciation and maintenance costs in fiscal year 2015 for vehicles with unknown utilization.
The GAO report concluded that, “While these costs may not equal the cost savings agencies derive from eliminating underutilized vehicles, without corrective action, agencies are incurring expenses to retain vehicles without determining if they are utilized.”
The report also called into question whether federal agencies billed taxpayers for vehicle upgrades for which the government spent over $2.5 million. The GAO was unable to determine if the upgrades, which included heated or leather seats, remote keyless start, powered seats and video entertainment systems, were essential for the agencies missions as required by federal guidelines.
“In analyzing these options, we were not able to determine if six of these types of options were related to safety, efficiency, economy, suitability, or administrative functions,” the GAO noted.
Video and sound systems worth over $3,000 each were installed on six of the vehicles, totaling $18,524. Heated or leather seats were featured in others, costing an average $1,300 per vehicle, and totaling $49,476.
The GAO contended that some of the upgrades were justified, such as a $167,427 tricked-out Ford pickup truck the Army uses for recruitment. The truck boasts leather, heated, and cooled captain chairs, DVD and MP3 players, a Sirius radio, chrome door handles, custom head lamps, and polished aluminum 22.5-inch wheels.
The Army has utilized the truck at more than 100 events and says that it is is one of the most requested assets in its fleet.
During one of his trips to the southern border, Dennis Michael Lynch met with local rancher John Ladd, who showed him an entire lot filled with brand new border patrol vehicles… just sitting there, not being utilized.
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