Audit report shows “no effective controls” by gov’t of their owned or leased vehicles
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With “no effective controls” in place for Executive Branch government-owned and leased vehicles, the fleet is subject to “misuse” and “theft,” says an audit report of ASG Executive Branch’s fleet by the US Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (DOI-OIG), which worked in collaboration with the local Territorial Audit Office.
“We determined that the ASG did not have effective internal controls over the use of its vehicles,” wrote Deputy Inspector General Mary L. Kendall in a Sept. 28th letter, which included the “revised version of the [audit] report prepared for public release”, to Douglas W. Domenech, Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs.
“We found that the ASG's vehicle records were inaccurate and incomplete, the ASG had no comprehensive and government-wide policy to regulate and monitor the use of government-owned and leased vehicles, and departments did not adhere to available guidance,” Kendall wrote.
“As a result, the fleet of government vehicles is subject to misuse, misappropriation, theft, and other loss,” she continued.
According to the 32-page report, publicly released Tuesday this week, DOI-OIG found ASG Office of Property Management’s vehicle records to be “inaccurate and incomplete”.
Additionally, Property Management’s records for government-owned vehicles “contained discrepancies” and could not account for 143 out of 519 sampled government vehicles in the inventory records.
Furthermore,,Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General could not account for all government-owned vehicles because departments routinely did not complete an annual inventory and reconcile department records with those maintained by Property Management.
For example, the Governor’s Office requested a list of all vehicles from each department on July 17, 2017.
“In response, several departments simply provided the list from their annual budget justification, which we learned was an unverified inventory list that had not been reconciled with the records maintained by Property Management,” the audit report says.
Other departmental inventories were generated internally, but also did not appear to reconcile with the records maintained by Property Management.
The audit states that “Property Management did not keep inventory records for government-leased vehicles.”
According to the report, ASG-leased vehicles, which are typically acquired as a condition of certain federal grants, are not accounted for in Property Management’s inventory of government vehicles. Further, federal grant agreements require agencies with leased vehicles to properly track, monitor, and report vehicle use activity.
The report explains that Property Management did not maintain a government-leased vehicle inventory because it was not explicitly required to and because the Office of Motor Vehicles policy prohibited leased vehicles from having government license plates.
DOI-OIG points out that as a condition of the grant agreement, departments are responsible for vehicles leased with grant funds.
Property Management’s policy, however, does not require departments to track leased vehicles because it does not consider vehicles to be government property until they have been paid off and their titles transferred to ASG, at which point they receive a government license plate and are tracked.
Leased vehicles do receive civilian plates, but this makes it hard to distinguish them from other privately-owned vehicles, the report says.
“Without accurate and complete inventory records for government-leased vehicles, these assets can become susceptible to being used for unauthorized purposes, misappropriated, or abandoned, leading to further repair and replacement costs,” OIG said.
Instead of developing a comprehensive, government-wide policy for vehicle control, the Governor’s Office issued a general memorandum in 2013 as guidance.
The memorandum directed the departments to develop their own individual policies for vehicle use, but did not establish timeframes, monitor progress, or impose remedial action for noncompliance, according to the audit report, which notes that the Governor’s Office issued several additional memoranda to reiterate the requirement to ensure oversight and address the executive branch departments’ noncompliance with the general memorandum.
DOI-OIG found that the majority of departments sampled did not adhere to the general memorandum. These departments, it says, did not establish internal control policies to detect and prevent unauthorized use of vehicles, use vehicle-activity logs, follow guidance on the issuance of after-hours use permits, or monitor after-hours use of government vehicles.
“Only 1 of the 17 departments in our sample developed vehicle-use policies and actively used vehicle-activity logs; 2 departments either had vehicle-use policies or used vehicle-activity logs.” the report says.
GUIDANCE NOT FOLLOWED
OIG found that the executive branch departments didn’t follow guidance outlined in the 2013 general memorandum, which directed each of the 32 executive branch departments to establish a vehicle-use policy for its respective vehicle fleet.
“We sampled 17 ASG executive branch departments and found that most did not establish internal control policies and procedures or use vehicle-activity logs,” DOI-OIG said. “The majority of the departments from our sample did not comply with the guidance because the [2013 general] memorandum does not provide timeframes or ramifications for failure to implement the policies.”
DOI-OIG said the local Department of Homeland Security implemented department-specific vehicle internal control policies and used vehicle-activity logs for their government vehicles; Health Department implemented a vehicle control policy; and Department of Youth and Women’s Affair implemented vehicle-activity logs.
In each of these cases, the department’s policies and/or activity logs demonstrated compliance with the general memorandum.
Provision of the general memorandum states that “each executive branch department is required to update and maintain vehicle-activity logs to report fuel consumption, repair expenses, mileage, and accidents.”
DOI-OIG said it found that 14 out of the 17 departments sampled did not implement or could not provide documented evidence that they implemented vehicle-activity logs.
“We found that departments did not use vehicle-activity logs because their accountable officers and property management officers failed to require these logs be regularly used and maintained” it says.
CHIEF OF STAFF
The report explains that ASG authorizes after-hours government vehicle use through two mechanisms: a 24-hour use sticker and an after-hours use permit. The Governor’s Office reviews and approves requests for 24-hour stickers, and the Governor’s Chief of Staff reviews and approves requests for temporary after-hours permits.
According to the 2013 general memorandum, department directors must provide sufficient justification before their staff can be issued an after-hours use permit for a government vehicle. The memorandum states that the justification must demonstrate a “life or death” threat necessitating the use of the vehicle after hours.
The Governor’s Chief of staff issued a follow-up memorandum on July 19, 2013, to clarify that requests for after-hours use permits should be submitted 48 hours prior to the date needed and use should not exceed 5 days.
“The Chief of Staff did not adhere to the guidance provided in either memorandum because he was reluctant to reject requests for an after-hours use permit as he believed that each department’s request was warranted and did not want to hinder department operations,” said DOI-OIG. “The Chief of Staff also told us that he would typically authorize permits for up to 2 weeks.”
“The Chief of Staff’s actions directly contradicted the Governor’s guidance to limit after-hours use of government vehicles to those who sufficiently justify an urgent need to perform work after-hours,” it says.
DOI-OIG also found that ASG road marshals “did not consistently document” their monitoring of after-hours vehicle use and “provided little to no documentation” of their monitoring activities from 2015 through 2017.
“Without documentation, the ASG has no assurance that the road marshals were performing their duties and has no justification for the salaries paid from 2015 through 2017, which totaled approximately $289,142,” the audit report says.
Despite road marshals being responsible for after-hours monitoring, “we found lapses in reporting and inconsistencies in the detail of reported after-hours use,” said DOI-OIG, noting that it requested copies of the road marshals’ activity logs from 2013 through 2017.
OIG said it received reports for most of 2013 and 2014, reports for 13 days of 2015, and neither the Governor’s Office nor the road marshals could provide documentation for either 2016 or 2017.
“Without documented evidence of their daily monitoring efforts, we cannot determine the overall effectiveness of the road marshals’ monitoring activities,” said OIG. “In addition, we cannot determine whether vehicle-use violations occurred or whether they were reported to the Governor’s Office.”
DOI-OIG gave 13 recommendations, in which Samoa News will report on in tomorrow’s edition, as well as the governor’s response, included in the report.