Audit finds wasteful spending with city worker mileage reimbursements


Whether it's sloppy paperwork or outright stealing, it's costing taxpayers money: hundreds of thousands of dollars in city employee reimbursements that were inappropriate or illegal.

L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel says $325,000 of taxpayer money was wasted due to overpayments and lack of oversight regarding city employees' mileage reimbursements when they used their own cars for work.

"City leadership cannot tolerate wasteful spending, especially at a time when the city is facing a $230-million budget deficit," Greuel said Tuesday.

The audit involved a sample of about 1,000 city workers across five departments. Greuel says the city overpaid $110,000 to city workers, and spent $215,000 on money that wasn't owed to employees for work-related expenses in the first place, such as driving to and from work.

"Mileage statements were often incomplete or inaccurate, and no documentation of insurance and valid driver's licenses were found in over half of the instances investigated," said Greuel.

A Department of Public Works spokeswoman says they have been operating with budget and staff cuts and are implementing the controller's suggestions.

"Actually, we thank the controller for being a partner with us in trying to eradicate waste," said Cora Jackson-Fossett, Department of Public Works public information director.

A Department of Public Transportation spokesman says they have already been working on changes, including producing quarterly mileage reimbursement reports. Manager Jaime de la Vega released a statement: "The department concurs with the office of the Controller audit report and has or will implement the suggested recommendations regarding the mileage reimbursement program."

The general manager of the Department of Building and Safety also says his department will start implementing the controller's recommendations as soon as possible, saying: "This audit identified some errors and will provide us the opportunity to enhance our procedures for monitoring mileage reimbursement paid to its employees."

On the streets, taxpayers have little sympathy for what may just be bad bookkeeping during tight times.

"They're just sloppy with the money," said L.A. resident Richard Grant.

Eyewitness News did not receive a response from the mayor. Greuel is asking the L.A. City Council to take up the matter immediately.

As for the city employees and their managers, there's a sliding scale of disciplinary action that could range from simply paying back the money, to being fired and losing pensions.

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