AG: government vehicles bigger, more expensive

Moira Baird
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Tom Hedderson

Auditor General John Noseworthy says the province’s fleet of light highway vehicles — sedans, SUVs, trucks and ATVs — is getting bigger, more expensive and more upscale.

It’s also missing 56 of its all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and snowmobiles from a fleet of 465.

Noseworthy calls for better management and oversight of the total fleet of 1,498 vehicles used by 14 government departments.

That fleet cost $28 million last year, along with an additional $1.7 million to rent 154 vehicles.

“It seems that the vehicles are becoming larger, more powerful for the job positions that used to be filled by smaller vehicles,” said Noseworthy. Among his recommendations:

•     review the fleet vehicles to ensure size, features and power match the job they’re doing;

•    suspend or limit the approval of vehicle purchases outside the regular tender process except in emergencies;

•     create a log book to track and monitor recreational vehicles.

Some of the lost ATVs and snowmobiles have been missing for decades.

The bulk of the lost or missing vehicles were in the hands of the Department of Natural Resources when they went missing.

Noseworthy also points to the practice by some departments of buying new vehicles outside the standing-offer time frame of August to December in order to buy more upscale vehicles.

That standing offer also provides for a standard set of vehicle specifications.

“We identified 37 vehicles costing $800,000 that were acquired outside the standing offer time frame in 2010,” said Noseworthy. “Somebody needs to look at this and determine what’s happening.”

Of those 37 vehicles, 28 were highway vehicles and nine were recreational vehicles — and all were bought between February and March of last year.

In March 2010, for instance, the province paid $62,000 for a Ford Expedition SUV for the High Sheriff’s office compared with the average cost of about $40,000 for a similar, more basic vehicle.

As well, 21 per cent of the fleet does not meet the government’s standard mileage for purchasing a vehicle in the first place.

“We found that 219 highway vehicles were operated below the 20,000-kilometre annual usage rate required to justify the purchase and continued use of the vehicle,” said Noseworthy.

Tom Hedderson, minister of transportation and works, said his department takes the auditor general’s recommendations seriously.

“We’re looking down through the recommendations that he’s made and, obviously, going to change some of the ways we do things in order to ensure that we properly are managing the fleet.”

Topping his list is making sure other departments provide information about their vehicles.

“We expect monthly reports with regard to the usage and repairs and pertinent information that we need to be putting into our database.”

In some cases, he said the use of larger, four-wheel drive vehicles is a safety issue for government employees who drive winter roads even before snow plows are out.

“That’s one of the big trends that has happened over the last half-dozen years.”

Hedderson said some vehicles are replaced if repair costs are too high. Other times, he said no basic vehicles are available for purchase.

“It’s really what’s left on the lot.”

Hedderson also said some vehicles are “absolutely necessary” despite their low mileage.

“Often times, when we go back and investigate, it’s an inspector … but we need those inspections, so they need the vehicle.”

As for missing recreational vehicles, Hedderson said his department is trying to track what happened and update its database.

“In some cases, some of these are 30 years old.”

In future, he said log books will be kept for all ATVs and snowmobiles as recommended by the auditor general.

mbaird@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Department of Natural Resources, Ford Expedition SUV

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Recent comments

  • Steve
    January 27, 2011 - 11:12

    There was a time when you would see utility vehicles used by the Department of Transportation employees would be a base model 2 wheel drive pick up truck. I noticed this summer past the truck used by workers was a club cab Dodge Ram pickup complete with mag rims. I don't think it was a rental it was the familiar silver/grey colour of their regular fleet. I thought then how times have changed - I guess I was right!

  • Taxpayer
    January 27, 2011 - 07:22

    This is government these people are entitled to their entitlements. We also have the head of EMO driving around in a big four wheel drive on his visits to Marie's Minie Mart. It appears that in recent years the most economical way of running vehicles in the Provincial government is to have no rules then you more efficient.