Investigation finds EMS misuse of state vehicles
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RALEIGH -- Just one week after State Auditor Beth Wood says she found two Alcohol Law Enforcement Agents illegally driving their state vehicles home, she's released a report on another department.
"It was an investigation initiated by another hotline tip, that there are state vehicles that are being abused," said Wood.
This time however she believes the State EMS Office wasn't aware they were breaking the law.
“They always thought that because these individuals were on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week, that they were exempted from that particular requirement,” Wood said.
For as long as the department's been around, Woods believes the 24 EMS employees drove to and from work and home in their state cars. But it wasn't until 2010 that the IRS allowed marked safety vehicles to do so, without reimbursing the state. And she says none of these vehicles were marked.
"It is clearly up to the agency heads whether or not they'll ask for reimbursement for all the years these individuals have used these vehicles or personal use,” Wood added.
But the Department of Health and Human Services says it was all a policy misunderstanding and taking the necessary steps to fix the problem.
In a written response, DHHS wrote: “These employees, as part of the state’s emergency response team, are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their state vehicles are crucial to making sure they can respond in the event of an emergency, and as long as those vehicles are properly marked, the law allows those employees to drive their vehicles home without having to reimburse the state for the commute. The Office of Emergency Medical Services has already taken steps to properly mark our vehicles and ensure we are in compliance with all applicable laws and rules, as the auditor recommended.”
But whether they'll actually reimburse the state for years of previous use is yet to be determined.
"When you look at the number of cars individually assigned, the number definitely adds up," Wood said.
Her office released the report to the governor and General Assembly. They say they'll also release information later this week on other investigations involving state abuse of resources.