County fuel audit aims at accountability

LIHU‘E — County departments have agreed to recommendations from a fuel use audit that cites concerns about accountability and billing practices.

The Office of the County Auditor released an interim report on fuel use after observing irregularities that present possible fraud, theft and abuse of current systems. Some allegations remain under investigation by an outside agency, and findings will be released in a second, complete report.

“The county uses substantial amounts of gasoline and diesel fuel in operations, at a cost of more than $1.4 million per year,” County Auditor Ernesto Pasion said. “And as fuel prices continue to rise, it is critically important that county fuel is monitored to guard against waste or unauthorized use.”

The report focused on management and systems that regulate gasoline and diesel fuel consumption. It evaluated procedures designed to ensure fuel is protected against loss.

Not all county departments are directly billed for fuel use at the county’s Public Works pumps, according to the report. The report called for a consistent and accountable system to address billing deficiencies.

Other recommendations call for ending the practice of manual billing and switching to direct billing. To continue this practice  essentially allows fuel use without charging it to the department, the report states.

Fuel tracking malfunctions meant approximately 14,361 gallons of diesel fuel went unaccounted for at various pump sites in 2010, according to the report. It said that in that same year, fire and police department records show little information about where fuel was used.

There are four primary county fuel stations operated by the Department of Public Works. The Department of Water has its own station in its base-yard.

Public Works and Water departments use a Gasboy fuel control access system to track vehicle mileage and fuel consumption. Drivers use a plastic key with a microchip  to access the pump, which records data used for vehicle maintenance and fuel consumption.

The report said the Gasboy system is not fully functional and that inaccurate or incomplete fueling data is recorded when software or mechanical functions occur. This leaves the pump vulnerable to fuel theft or misuse.

Issues noted were of no system of accountability for filling five-gallon cans to use with small motor equipment. Other concerns were with drivers avoiding the use of their own identification codes by using a default code that prevented tracking.

The report recommended the county fully implement fuel control features and resolve fleet management accountability issues. It also recommended regular physical fuel inventories to reconcile with pump-flow readings.

The county Transportation Department purchases fuel for its buses and vehicles at commercial stations of the Kaua‘i Automated Fuels Network. It requires a fuel purchase “K- card” with a number that identifies the vehicle or its driver.

The Kaua‘i Police Department uses Public Works base-yard fueling sites and the commercial KAFN stations in off-hours or commercial stations.

The report advised the police department to more closely scrutinize fuel purchase invoices at commercial stations to guard against any inappropriate transactions.

The police department responded in the report, stating the department agrees to  implement better fuel accountability procedures.

The Department of Public Works added its agreement to all recommendations and findings. According to the report, Public Works has requested funding to implement a new fuel control system.

Public Works also plans to put out a bid to perform the automated direct billing service for the Gasboy system. It added that work is ongoing to ensure all departments will be billed appropriately for fuel use.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or tlaventure@thegardenisland.com.

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