Auditor General slams DHSMV on monitoring specialty license plates

7:45 PM, Feb 24, 2014   |    comments
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10 Investigates discovered the organization selling "In God We Trust" specialty license plates had collected nearly $450,000 in fees, but had only paid out $10,000 of that to families of fallen officers and fire fighters.


Tallahassee, Florida --The Florida Auditor General is slamming the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for lack of oversight on specialty license plates. 

You may recall in 2012 10 Investigates looked into the "In God We Trust" specialty plates, and found that while the organization collected more than $448,000 in fees, it paid out less than $10,000 to the surviving families of fallen Police and Firefighters.  

STORY: Can you trust the "In God We Trust" Foundation?
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The state eventually froze the funds and found some other organization to administer the charity.

However, an audit report of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles between July of 2011 and February of 2013 shows the department didn't always document appropriate actions were taken to monitor the agencies issuing the specialty plates.  

See the DHSMV Operational Audit report here

Under state law, the Department is supposed to receive a report or audit from the organizations selling the plates, which shows the money being collected is being used properly. 

According to the audit:  

"If the Department determines that an organization did not comply or failed to use the revenues in accordance with State law, the Department is to discontinue the distribution of the revenues to the organization until the Department determines that the organization is in compliance with State law."

And if an organization doesn't comply within 12 months after the Department withholds their proceeds...

"...The proceeds are to be deposited into the Highway Safety Operating Trust Fund to offset Department costs related to the issuance of specialty license plate."

Some of the reports submitted to the Department were more than 87 days late, with one organization submitting its report 133 days after the deadline. The Auditor General says some organizations were spending money on promotions and marketing in excess of the state law.

In addition, the Department didn't document reviews for some of the specialty plate organizations that were exceeding the limits of expenditures established by state law.

In response to the audit, the Department indicated in some cases there was no documentation of what it did because of follow up reports handled by telephone.

The audit goes on the say:

"Department management also indicated that review procedures would be updated to specifically address the verification of statutorily approved administration and marketing expenditure amounts. Department management explained that the excessive or unallowed expenditures may have been due to improper classification by the reporting organizations, but, also acknowledged that appropriate follow-up actions were not completed. In the absence of documented, timely, and appropriate follow-up actions for overdue audit reports and attestations and for reported expenditures that are not allowed or are in excess of established limits, Department management lacks assurance that specialty license plate annual use fee proceeds are used as specified by State law and cannot demonstrate that only those organizations that are in compliance continued to receive distributions of specialty license plate proceeds."

The Auditor General is recommending the Department takes steps to ensure there is proper accounting of the proceeds of specialty license plates, and and that the organizations don't spend more on marketing and promotions than allowed by state law.

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