Florida audit finds issues with the Road Ranger program

Department of Transportation pledges to correct deficiencies By Andrew Powell | The Center Square contributor
A Florida Department of Transportation Road Ranger helps a stranded motorist change a flat tire.
A Florida Department of Transportation Road Ranger helps a stranded motorist change a flat tire. Facebook / Florida Department of Transportation

(The Center Square) — A recent audit from the Florida Auditor General’s office showed uncorrected discrepancies with a program designed to assist stranded motorists.

The Road Ranger Service Patrol Program provides highway assistance services to improve safety for the public and first responders and to reduce delays on the highways.

Primary services include coordinating with the Florida Highway Patrol and other law enforcement, assisting in clearing the roadways and controlling traffic during major incidents.

Road Ranger patrol vehicles also assist motorists and are able to help with minor mechanical repairs, tire changes and provide fuel, free of charge.

The Auditor General’s report showed four issues with the Road Rangers Program, which is managed independently from the state Department of Transportation and is instead managed by the Department’s seven districts and the Florida Turnpike. The turnpike hires contractors to carry out the services.

The first issue was that the turnpike and districts failed to come up with processes and procedures for monitoring contractor performance. Each district, as well as the turnpike, must have their own quality assurance process to ensure Road Ranger equipment is up to safety standards.

The audit report recommended that monitoring systems be set up for better accountability.

The second issue the audit found was there were instances where contracts over $35,000 were not done in compliance with state procurement law, which requires detail sufficient for audits before the contract is awarded and after it has been executed.

The report states that there was "no documentation available to demonstrate that the contract manager corroborated invoiced hours and amounts to original source documents such as SunGuide reports and daily operating logs showing actual hours worked for 19 contract payments totaling $2,575,822."

It was recommended that Department management ensure that district and turnpike records show evidence that they had followed the proper procedures regarding payments made to contractors and that the services have actually been received.

The third issue found was the department had not deactivated employee access to the SunGuide software upon the termination of their employment, nor did they conduct any reviews into user access privileges. According to the FDOT website, SunGuide is an advanced traffic management system software that is used at all regional traffic management centers within the state.

This was prevalent throughout all of the seven districts from July 2018 through to November 2020.

Following the audit’s finding, the report recommended that reviews be carried out in an appropriate timeframe to verify user access privileges are justified.

According to the report, the fourth issue related to purchasing card controls. Records showed that it took an average of 10 days to remove an employee’s access to purchasing cards after they no longer worked at the Department.

A total of 217 purchasing cards of ex-employees were examined, 43 of them were canceled between one and 215 days. The recommendation is for stricter controls on purchasing cards, including promptly canceling the cards once employment has ceased.

In response, DOT agreed with the findings and will implement specific methods for documentation to be collected for contractor reviews.

Further, the response stated that documentation will also be properly gathered to evidence that services that have been paid for, are services that have been received.

SunGuide and payment cards will also be monitored more closely, according to DOT, and these changes have an estimated corrective action date of June 30.

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