Audit finds Chattanooga's take-home vehicle policy lacking, needs enforcement
An audit of the take-home vehicle policy for the City of Chattanooga shows there is very little enforcement of the IRS-mandated laws and regulations by department heads or the city's fleet manager.
The key finding from the audit explains that "Improvements are needed to the take home vehicle policy."
"A City employee may be eligible for a take-home vehicle if the employee is: (1) subject to frequent after-hours callback; (2) such call back arrangements are to locations other than the employee’s normal duty station; (3) a special vehicle, tools, parts, or equipment are required to perform after-hours assignments, and (4) an unacceptable delay in the response would result from the employee’s return to the normal duty station to retrieve the needed equipment. The policy states take-home vehicles may not be used for commuting travel outside of Hamilton County."
The audit also explains that Human Resources and the City Attorney’s Office are currently working to revise the take-home vehicle policy section of the Employee Information Guide, or EIG.
The city provides 395 take-home vehicles for police officers, fire department, public works, city court air pollution control board and transportation.
|Air Pollution Control Board||1|
Other points from the audit include:
- City practice does not conform to IRS regulations: The City does not require employees living within the city to pay mileage on their take home vehicles as IRS regulations require. Sworn personnel are excluded in this federal rule, but are only allowed to use the take home vehicle for commuting. To remedy this, the auditors recommend requiring ALL sworn personnel be required to drive home their vehicles, or charging a commuting charge to those who choose to. A 2013 memo set that fee at a flat rate of $3.00 per day.
- No documentation proving eligibility is required for take home vehicles: The Employee Information Guide issued in 2015 failed to designate a position or official to be responsible for keeping track of those who had take home vehicles and the status of their eligibility. Also, some of the eligibility criteria were said to be not clearly defined. This was demonstrated in the fact that, according to the guide, those taking vehicles home must be approved by the department administrator and the city's Chief Financial Officer. No requests been made to the CFO and the CFO was not aware this task fell under her purview. It was recommended eligibility be documented and, at least, ...mandate an average number of after-hours callbacks per month to qualify as meeting the "frequent" callback requirement. It was also advised written approval from the department head and CFO be required. The immediate compilation of a list of all current employees with take home vehicles was suggested.
- An insurance requirement is not stated in the take home vehicle policy: There was also a lack of guidance as to the minimum insurance needed. The auditor recommended revising the guide to require those taking home vehicles to include a rider with the city as an additional insured on their personal insurance policies with minimum liability amounts set forth by Tennessee Code ($300,000 for bodily injury or death of any one (1) person in any one (1) accident, occurrence or act, and not less than $700,000 for bodily injury or death of all persons in any one (1) accident, occurrence or act, and $100,000 for injury or destruction of property of others in any one (1) accident, occurrence or act.
- Acknowledgment of employee's acceptance of their responsibilities of City expectations for a take home vehicle is not documented: The auditor recommends an eligibility form be signed by the employee with the take home vehicle be kept in their personnel file. In that form wold be an acknowledgment the employee knows how the vehicle can and cannot be use, the promise to provide an insurance rider annually, a pledge to use the vehicle for only commuting and city business, identifying those to notify in the case of any traffic violations, license suspensions/revocations, or accidents. Also, the driver would ensure they would keep the vehicle in safe running order, secure, and provide preventative maintenance.
- No controls are in place to provide reasonable assurance vehicles are not used for personal purposes: Highlighted here was an apparent discrepancy between the guide and the City Code as to whether or not family member would be allowed to ride in the take home vehicle. It was recommended the policy be revised to prohibit personal use and, if not, to require mileage logs be kept and checked. It was also suggested a periodic review process be established to ensure employees with take home vehicles are complying with the policy.
- Driving record reviews are not being performed: Policy currently states employees may not be eligible to take home a city vehicle if they have a "poor" driving record, but after an initial check at the time of hire, no follow-up check was occurring. Because of that it was recommended that all city employees' drivers files be updated and periodic review of driving history take place for all taking home city vehicles.
- Departments have not furnished required reports of take home vehicles to the Fleet Director: This has resulted in there being no complete listing of take home vehicles which makes verifying approvals and insurance impossible. It was advised these lists be compiled immediately.
- Take home vehicles are driven to residences outside the county and state: Current policy does not allow take home vehicles to be driven home if that residence is out of the county or the state. Two were discovered in violation; one in Meigs County, the other in Rossville, Georgia. With no up-to-date list of the take home vehicles and drivers, tough, it was not possible to determine if these were the only employees out of compliance. The auditor suggested address verification be included on the eligibility form and that department heads periodically cross reference those addresses with employees' information in human resources.
- The mileage rate charged to employees commuting with take home vehicles is incorrect: The amount being charged is 75% of the established IRS mileage rate set back in 2005. Updating that to current rates would increase the amount the city collects from $0.30 to $0.41 per mile.