The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


April 24, 2013

PennDOT ‘finds’ big savings

Monitoring workforce travel pays dividends

— Often, we’re amused when government agencies hold press conferences or make “flash” media announcements to pound their chests over improved management of taxpayer resources and huge savings that had miraculously resulted.

Mostly, though, we wonder: What took so long? Or why did predecessors permit so much waste?

But we still applaud current state Department of Transportation officials for improving oversight of staff vehicles and travel expenses.

PennDOT officials earlier this month said changes had resulted in a 30 percent reduction in staff-assigned vehicles and $4 million in savings on mileage reimbursements.

That’s not peanuts. And as can be expected as a gubernatorial election campaign heats up, the credit flowed back to the governor.

“Governor Corbett is committed to make government operate as

efficiently as possible

and, to that end, PennDOT is working hard and making smart choices to

ensure that we are operating at peak efficiency,” PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said.

“Through diligently monitoring our fleet, we are able to invest about $4 million directly back into our roads and bridges.”

Where in years past was the “diligent monitoring” taxpayers deserve?

Secretary Schoch said that in 2003, PennDOT had a fleet of 2,100 passenger vehicles. That number has been reduced to 1,500. PennDOT employs 12,000 people.

PennDOT does a commendable job keeping the public updated on the many services it performs. Perhaps it could also help the Legislature and other state and county agencies better manage their fleets and mileage reimbursements.

In the state Legislature’s 2011-12 session, taxpayers paid more than $3 million for lawmakers’ vehicles, fuel and mileage reimbursements, the Pitts-burgh Tribune-Review reported.

Travel costs included state-paid vehicle leases, some of which exceeded $600 a month; gas and

oil reimbursements for rental cars; and mileage reimbursements for members driving their own vehicles. A lawmaker can choose whether to drive a personal car and collect mileage, or use a state-paid vehicle with gas reimbursement.

The travel costs were in addition to $3.9 million in per-diem food and lodging payments. Base salaries for legislators exceed $82,000.

Any waste there? Any places to cut?

You bet.

Cambria County maintains a large fleet of vehicles for its workers. Anyone can see a sample by driving by its Clinton Street parking lot during county off-working hours.

We’re confident our courthouse leaders in both Ebensburg and Somerset are crunching financial numbers in these tough economic times.

But PennDOT officials have demonstrated that big savings can been

found by diligently monitoring what is budgeted

for workforce travel. If they’re not already doing so, all other government agencies should be looking also.

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