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State has lots of ‘miracle’ cars

By TIM KALICH,

One glaring omission from a legislative watchdog’s report on how Mississippi is managing its state-owned vehicles is who is manufacturing its “miraculous” cars.

There are plenty of automobile owners who would like to know where they, too, can find a vehicle that:

- Gets more than a million miles and keeps on running, as supposedly 21 percent of the vehicles reported to the state’s record keepers do.

- Gets at least 100 miles to the gallon, as 32 percent of the state’s vehicles report that they do.

It is unfair of the government not to share who is making cars and trucks with such incredible durability and fuel economy.

Seriously, those astronomical numbers, as the Legislative Performance and Expenditure Review Committee implies, are prima facie evidence of how poorly the state is keeping up with its more than 7,000 vehicles.

Despite laws and regulations intended to centralize the management of the state’s fleet of vehicles, the data is either not being accurately reported to the Department of Finance and Administration or not being reported at all.

A new state law is supposed to help fix that. It tells the Bureau of Fleet Management, the DFA division that is charged with keeping tabs on all these vehicles, to not authorize any new vehicles for an agency that is logging inaccurate or incomplete data into the vehicle management database. At the moment, that’s not much of a stick, as the state has put a freeze on most car purchases due to budget constraints. When that moratorium is lifted, however, the threat of having purchase requests turned down could be an effective motivator for agency heads to clean up the sloppiness.

The whole purpose of the centralized record-keeping system is to make sure the state is not buying too many vehicles and that they are being optimally and legally used.

Fleet management, however, requires good data. Without it, there’s no way of knowing what’s really going on.