[Riverside County] County Responds to Grand Jury Report Critical of Fleet Operations

Riverside County supervisors signed off Tuesday on an Executive Office response to a grand jury report that identified inconsistencies in how the Department of Purchasing & Fleet Services keeps track of more than 4,000 vehicles, raising the possibility that the county may not have a complete understanding of its own automobile inventory.

The report that the 19-member civil grand jury issued last spring recommended a series of policy modifications that the Executive Office scrutinized, ultimately agreeing with some of the jury’s findings and submitting a formal analysis to the Board of Supervisors.

Board members did not add or change the official response, which was approved without comment.

One of the panel’s foremost criticisms regarded the lack of a “centralized inventory system” that would permit county officials to know, at any given time, the number of vehicles in operation and where they’re located.

Executive Office staff replied that a “fleet tracking system” had been established, and under a contract approved by the board in July, the system will be expanded to incorporate data from the Riverside County Fire Department and Flood Control & Water Conservation District — two entities that have been utilizing separate inventory control systems, making it a challenge for fleet services personnel to know the status of those agencies’ vehicles.

The grand jury questioned the validity of vehicle counts after reviewing records provided by professional services firm KPMG, which was retained last year at a cost of $300,000 specifically to address inefficiencies in the Department of Purchasing & Fleet Services, and other records provided by an administrator within the agency. The KPMG count indicated 4,027 vehicles in the motor pool, while the departmental figures showed 4,378.

Jurors wrote that the “discrepancies” needed to be resolved for public transparency.

According to the county, variation between the two reports stemmed from “selection criteria” that resulted in KPMG not counting all light duty vehicles in the fleet. Officials said that the departmental tabulation was correct.

Although fleet services operates 13 maintenance shops countywide, the grand jury’s investigation revealed that the fire department and flood control district were having some of their vehicles repaired on-site or at private auto shops, making it difficult for the county to maintain and assess service records.

“Departments that conduct maintenance and repair of their light-duty vehicles in addition to their medium- and heavy-duty vehicles do so … to address imminent response needs,” according to the EO’s statement to the jury. “Fleet services does not have comparable equipped vehicles to loan out while services are performed on these vehicles. For these reasons, it is beneficial for the departments to maintain the vehicles (on their own).”

The jury lastly found fault with the preparation of fleet management reports that contain details on vehicles’ utilization, enabling officials to gauge whether they should be retained or retired.

According to jurors, board policy directs that usage reports be generated monthly, while retirement reports go out quarterly. However, “when the grand jury requested copies of these reports, fleet services was unable to provide any.”

The EO responded that a communication snafu led to jurors not receiving some of the reports that had been requested.

September 11, 2018

MyNewsLA.com

By Contributing Editor

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