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City audit finds $325,000 wasted on improper mileage reimbursements

December 18, 2012 |  1:10 pm

City Controller Wendy Greuel in 2011. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles taxpayers paid $325,000 in mileage reimbursements to city workers for on-the-job driving claims that are not backed up by documents or are incomplete, City Controller Wendy Greuel said Tuesday.

Greuel said her sampling of city departments revealed evidence that overpayments for mileage reimbursements are a common occurrence. From 2009 to this year, her audit showed overpayments of $110,000 in five departments and $215,000 in lost cost savings.

The controller, who is running for mayor, attributed the problem to poor oversight of the claims by city department managers.

"Across all departments sampled, 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,'' Greuel said at a morning press conference.

She was accompanied by Councilman Dennis Zine, chairman of the Audits & Governmental Efficiency Committee, who said the audit shows some workers, aided by lax management, are "cheating taxpayers."

"Management and supervisors need to do their jobs,'' said Zine, who is running for controller in the city election next spring. "How many other departments have employees who are doing this?"

Greuel's audit reviewed mileage statements submitted by five departments: the Department of Building and Safety; Los Angeles Housing Department; Public Works - Bureau of Contract Administration; Public Works - Bureau of Street Services; and the Department of Transportation.

While the $325,000 loss is a fraction of the overall $4.6 million paid out in mileage reimbursements citywide, Greuel called it the "tip of the iceberg."

"My findings strongly indicate that this could be happening in other city departments,'' she said. "Given the tough economic times our city is facing, this is absolutely unacceptable and reckless."

Los Angeles is struggling through its leanest budget years in decades and has cut services and thousands of city positions to close shortfalls. Next year, it is facing a $230-million budget deficit, the controller said.

Her audit recommends tighter checks and balances on workers submitting mileage claims.

"Crucial changes must be made immediately to safeguard the public’s trust, which is why I am recommending that the city adopt a rigid monitoring system,'' she said.

Questioned by reporters, Greuel agreed that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should put pressure on his general managers to make sure their workers are complying with reimbursement safeguards.

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-- Catherine Saillant and Michael Finnegan at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: City Controller Wendy Greuel in 2011. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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