Columbus – The State of Ohio has too many planes, fragmented accounting for their costs and nonexistent standards governing their use, according to an audit of ODOT’s Office of Aviation released today by Auditor of State Dave Yost.
There are no findings for recovery issued in the audit report due to the lack of guidelines for the proper use of state aircraft. As cited in the report, “When performing our testing on whether the purpose of using the state aircraft for executive travel may be improper, we found no objective standard or legal basis on which to make this determination.”
Of 73 non-ODOT flights tested, three flights which included Lt. Governor Mary Taylor contained routes that were utilized as a diversion for convenience to or from the Canton, Ohio airport, which is near her home. In addition, House Speaker William Batchelder once used a state plane to go from a private event to the Statehouse. Both individuals have reimbursed the state for the cost of their flights. The report recommends that a formal set of policies and procedures be put in place so all users of the planes are aware of appropriate rules and regulations prior to requesting travel.
“Some other states have clear rules for the use of their state planes, Ohio does not,” Auditor Yost said. “While planes may play a valuable role in conducting state business, the state ought to define that role.”
The report also recommends a single cost center be developed for all State of Ohio aviation expenses related to executive travel on state aircraft. A review of funds used by various agencies to reimburse ODOT for flights found that billing methods and processes are inefficient.
A review of operational costs associated with operating and maintaining state airplanes found that the aircraft are underutilized. The report recommends that ODOT consider selling or repurposing the American Eurocopter. If optimal utilization cannot be achieved, sale of the aircraft could yield between $625,000 and $1.25 million. The aircraft used as the backup unit also could be sold for between $395,000 and $1.15 million. Since the aircraft is used sparingly, ODOT should consider private sector options to fill the backup need of 32 hours annually.
On December 21, 2011, Representative Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) contacted the Auditor of State’s office requesting an audit of the use of state airplanes for executive travel. On January 13, 2012, Auditor Yost announced in a letter to Representative Lundy that the office would review the use of state aircraft. The engagement found that ODOT no longer had flight records for calendar year 2010, and thus the audit was limited to calendar year 2011.
A full copy of this audit may be accessed online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,600 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.