Legislative Committee Fails on DMV Audit

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

That slow moving sloth at the DMV counter in the movie ZOOTOPIA was funny to movie goers but those who wait in a California DMV office for six, seven and even eight hours to take care of business are not laughing. A solution to the long lines was offered by the head of the DMV to a legislative committee that is the universal go-to remedy when government is failing in its responsibilities—give us more money. How about finding out how the current money is being spent? The DMV should be audited.

DMV director Jean Shiomoto requested $26 million to hire 400 more employees. She said the problem is that the federal government will soon require a Real ID license to board airplanes and for other identification purposes and explaining the change to DMV customers has slowed interactions between employees and customers at DMV facilities.

But the Real ID requirement has been known for years and the legislature has sent additional funds to the DMV to deal with the expected slowdown.

How well has that money been spent? How well is the DMV managing the resources it now has?

We may never know.

A request to audit the DMV was turned aside by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. While the required number of Assembly members approved an audit, the vote fell one shy on the Senate side when three Democratic senators abstained.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, who requested the DMV audit, said in a statement, “The members of this committee who voted against this audit request have just sentenced California drivers to interminable wait times. The people of this state and the DMV employees have been loud and clear about the absolute failure of this department to do their job.”

Director Shiomoto opposed the audit saying it would strain agency resources and pull employees away from their jobs.

But an audit is a way to reveal the efficiency—or lack there of—of the agency. Indeed, the State Auditor’s mission statement says, “The California State Auditor promotes the efficient and effective management of public funds.”

With mounting outrage from constituents it is a prime responsibility of the legislature to promote effective use of public funds to ease the anger and to get the job done as effectively as possible.

That’s why the audit makes sense.

The problem for the DMV and many dedicated DMV employees is that they suffer from the perception offered up by that movie sloth. The only way to correct the image is to analyze the problem and produce a fix. An audit could tell us how to proceed.

Without an audit, throwing money at the problem is a great risk. Maybe that is enough to solve the problem but the track record at the DMV on improving customer service with increased dollars is not inspiring.

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