Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' 2003 order to sell state vehicles saved more money than previously reported, but the reduction in fleet has led to some problems, according to a new audit.
Sebelius administration officials said the report released last week justified their budget-cutting move.
"We believed we had too many cars," said Duane Goossen, Sebelius' budget director and administration secretary.
Sebelius, a Democrat, has used the sale of state cars as an example of how she reduced government waste. But Republicans, who hold significant majorities in the Legislature, have long claimed Sebelius overstated the savings.
"I don't think we saved any money," state Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, said.
The new report by the Legislative Division of Post Audit is the second audit into the state vehicle sales by Sebelius.
In 2003, Sebelius declared a two-year moratorium on the purchase of new state vehicles, ordered underused vehicles sold and eliminated the Central Motor Pool.
The basic fleet was reduced from 4,279 vehicles to 3,402 vehicles, a decrease of 877 vehicles, or about 20 percent.
At the time, Sebelius stated the savings at $9.3 million, which was used to shore up other areas in a tight fiscal budget.
Republicans disagreed with Sebelius' claim and ordered an audit in 2004. That study said the savings couldn't be known because there wasn't enough information at the time on whether it would cost more for state employees to rent cars or be reimbursed for use of their personal cars, instead of using a state-owned vehicle.
Three years later, auditors said the savings to the state through the vehicle sales was actually $24.5 million - more than twice the amount Sebelius had claimed.
But the audit said the ongoing costs of providing vehicles for state travel will be about the same as before because state employees are being reimbursed more for use of their private vehicles and state agencies are renting cars more often.
State employees drove nearly 2 million more miles in 2006 than in 2003, and those miles were driven in private vehicles and rental cars. The state increased its reimbursement rate for private car mileage from 30 cents per mile to 40 cents per mile.
But the audit says that on a per-mile basis, vehicle costs have decreased from 49.1 cents per mile to 47.7 cents per mile, down 1.4 cents per mile.
The audit cited several problems with the state's contract with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and with the Department of Administration's oversight of the contract.
In some cases, Enterprise was inappropriately charging sales tax or insurance on car rentals, the audit said. And there were complaints that Enterprise didn't always have a sufficient supply of vehicles available.
But Enterprise lobbyist John Peterson said a survey of state employees who used Enterprise was more positive than negative and that costs per mile were lower than under the state's old motor pool operation. He said Enterprise would respond in more detail to the audit after it had an opportunity to study it further.
Sen. Donovan, who sells cars for a living, said he thought the increased use of rental cars and leasing cars will cost the state in the long run.
"Owning is the least expensive for any product," he said.
But Goossen, the governor's budget director, said the audit showed the actions by Sebelius "has led to sizable savings for the state."
He said many of the issues cited in the audit concerning Enterprise have been addressed in updated contractual agreements.
To access the full audit, go to www.kslegislature.org/postaudit and click on Providing Vehicles for Official State Travel.