Capitol Alert

California’s DMV to undergo audit after all

Patterson blasts California senators for rejecting DMV audit request

Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno accuses of Gov. Jerry Brown of influencing inaction from California Legislature. Patterson's request for an audit of the Department of Motor Vehicles fell one vote short.
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Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno accuses of Gov. Jerry Brown of influencing inaction from California Legislature. Patterson's request for an audit of the Department of Motor Vehicles fell one vote short.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday directed his administration to conduct an audit into California’s embattled Department of Motor Vehicles.

The agency has faced issues and controversy over rising wait times, aging technology and improper voter registration.

In a letter sent to DMV Director Jean Shiomoto, the Department of Finance acknowledges the DMV has made progress in addressing ongoing issues but says recent developments have “underscored the need for further analysis.”

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance, says the performance audit will look at the DMV’s field operations, IT system and governance structure and develop recommendations. Palmer said the DMV will reimburse the agency $700,000 to $800,000 to conduct the audit. He expects a staff of about 10 people to come out with a full report in March 2019.

“We welcome the Department of Finance’s input into DMV’s ongoing efforts to reduce wait times and improve customer service and stand ready to assist with the audit,” Shiomoto said in a statement.

Brown’s decision to order Brown’s finance department to audit the DMV comes after his previous efforts to undermine an August request from Assemblyman Jim Patterson for an audit by the state’s independent Bureau of State Audits. Brown’s office declined to comment further. TheDMV previously said an audit would be a “strain” on resources.

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After State Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, declined to vote on Patterson’s request, effectively killing the audit, Allen said he received a call from Brown the following morning “expressing his full commitment to addressing the issues.”

“I take the governor’s call and the governor’s personal commitment to addressing the issues over a seven-month audit that’s going to tell us exactly what we already know.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, who has gone to DMV offices to hand out water bottles and repeatedly called for Shiomoto’s resignation, said the audit is “better late than never.”

“It’s an important first step that I have been shining light on for months,” Cox said. “The Sacramento political class has done a shameful job addressing these real problems plaguing millions of Californians. Every hour spent in a DMV line is an hour away from someone’s job or family.”

Patterson, R-Fresno, also welcomed the news of the audit approval. “Every now and then, pigs fly,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do. The problems at the DMV are much deeper, and much more complex. The DMV has demonstrated they simply can’t do it on their own. I’m glad the governor came to the same conclusion I did.”

Some Republicans questioned Brown’s decision to have the Department of Finance handle the investigation, rather than State Auditor Elaine Howle. Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said in a statement that “the previously proposed audit by the independent State Auditor would have been preferable.”

Palmer said the Department of Finance has a strong track record of holding state agencies accountable through audits, pointing to a March 2017 audit that questioned Board of Equalization promotion costs.

Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat who oversees budget requests from the DMV, said the Department of Finance will conduct a fair and thorough audit.

“I have complete confidence that Finance will continue to provide proper oversight,” Ting said. “I think it’s disappointing that rather than work productively, people continue to nitpick rather than offer tangible solutions to improve the DMV.”

Letter to DMV

In a budget hearing on Tuesday, August 7, DMV Director Jean Shiomoto expressed opposition to a potential audit of the department, calling the proposal a “strain” on resources that would detract focus from reducing wait times.

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