Auditor cites vehicle inspection stations

The Highway Patrol’s decision to buy a new airplane, and the usage of the state’s current airplane fleet, aren’t the only subject of Auditor Tom Schweich’s report released Tuesday.

The report said the patrol needs to do a better job of monitoring vehicle inspection stations — especially the ones checking school buses.

“Our only real concern is, when they do spot inspections (of buses), there’s a 25 percent failure rate,” the auditor said. “They need to trace it back, to see if there are particular inspection stations that are doing a bad job.”

After an Aug. 5, 2010, accident killed two people — including one passenger at the rear of the first of two school buses involved in the collisions — the National Transportation Safety Board’s 104-page report included several recommendations for the state to improve bus safety inspections.

Schweich said Tuesday: “When the NTSB said (the patrol) needed to redo their manual and change their procedures for brakes, they did most of that. ...

“They appear to have taken those concerns seriously and implemented significant corrective action.”

The audit suggested the patrol also “observe inspections as they go on,” which isn’t being done now.

In its response, the patrol said it would require more training and testing for mechanics “pursuing a school bus inspection endorsement” on their license, and it would “conduct followup reviews with stations, school districts, and private bus companies to ensure that inspector mechanics are properly trained and inspections are properly conducted.”

Schweich’s audit cited several areas where the patrol needs to improve the way it handles money — in the collection of fees for various programs, in the way it keeps track of its property and of property it has seized in court cases, and how it replaces its road vehicles.

In its response, the patrol said it’s already doing what the auditor suggests, and problems he cited in the report were exceptions rather than the norm.

Schweich said Tuesday: “All government agencies, regardless of their function, need to operate in accordance with sound fiscal practices, and not waste taxpayer dollars.

“And when problems are found — they need to correct the problems rather than shooting the messenger.”

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