UH has too many cars,
auditor says

Unneeded cars are bought,
and there is no clear policy, she says

By Mike Yuen

In a highly critical report, state Auditor Marion Higa has concluded that the University of Hawaii has failed to develop clear guidelines and policies to manage its fleet of 651 vehicles.

She also found that vehicles have been purchased without adequate justification, and questioned if the university really needs as many vehicles as it has.

In fact, the university itself recognized 30 years ago that it needed better cost-efficiency in usings its vehicles, which include about 500 sedans, pickup trucks, station wagons and vans, Higa said in her report released today.

UH President Kenneth Mortimer generally concurred. He promised to complete corrective action within six weeks.

But he disagreed with Higa's recommendation to eliminate the university's fleet management program. Higa said the program allows the university to sidestep the budget process and obscure "the true costs of the university's vehicle program."

For instance, a $16,000 vehicle placed in the program for 12 years would mean a particular university unit would have to pay the program nearly $70,600 during that period for maintenance and replacement. That "far exceeds normal maintenance and replacement costs," Higa stated.

The American Automobile Association estimates that it costs about $4,000 a year to operate a car.

Higa also found that vehicles are often replaced automatically when the original justification for having the vehicle may no longer exist. "The state can ill afford expensive perquisites in this period of fiscal austerity," Higa said.

She suggested the university consider allowing its employees to use personal vehicles, and paying a mileage reimbursement or providing a monthly auto allowance.

Or the university could follow the executive branch, which has curtailed the practice of providing state-owned vehicles, Higa said. Only those who prove that their jobs require a state car for emergency work are provided one.

Higa found the office of the UH's senior vice president for administration has at least 23 vehicles. "This appears to be excessive," she reported.

The average university vehicle is driven about 3,600 miles a year, but the actual miles driven ranged from a low of 356 miles to a high of 13,870, Higa found. "At an initial purchase cost of about $12,000, a vehicle driven only 356 miles per year could hardly be cost effective no matter how many years it is kept in service."

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