California to Audit DMV Due to Long Wait Times

By Zach Li
Zach Li
Zach Li
September 25, 2018 Updated: September 25, 2018

After being long criticized for excessive wait times and outdated technology, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is now facing an audit from the Department of Finance, according to an order from Governor Jerry Brown on Sep. 21.

The audit will focus on the DMV’s current operations, information technology system, as well as providing recommendations to “improve DMV’s practices and enhance its customer service,” according to a letter from the Department of Finance to the DMV Director Jean Shiomoto.

Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer also told the Sacramento Bee that the DMV will provide the department up to $800,000 to carry out the audit. A team of about 10 people from the agency will come up with a final report by March 2019.

“Long wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles do not reflect the high standards of service that Californians expect from their state government,” said Department of Finance director Keely Martin Bosler in the letter. While it mentioned several measures DMV took to reduce long wait times, “recent developments have also underscored the need for further analysis.”

State lawmakers previously proposed an independent audit by the state auditor to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. However, the DMV Director Jean Shiomoto opposed the proposal and claimed that an audit would divert resources and focus.

In early August, the eight-member committee failed to pass the audit request by one vote. In the meantime, the legislature approved nearly $17 million to the DMV in additional funding to hire another 230 staff to address these issues. However, some Republican lawmakers doubted the effectiveness of this strategy.

“We’ve spent more money and added more employees, but DMV wait times have gone through the roof. ” Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) wrote in an op-ed in late August. “I believe my constituents deserve better, and I believe they deserve to know where their money has gone.”

In addition, the DMV was recently found to have mishandled 23,000 voters’ registration information, including giving people the wrong political party preference and sending non-qualified people’s information to the secretary of state, who maintains the list of registered voters.

“The State of California must fix the problems that have led to the long wait times, mounting technology issues and disturbing reports of more than 23,000 erroneous voter registrations being transmitted to the Secretary of State,” said Senator Pat Bates in a statement.

“While the previously proposed audit by the independent State Auditor would have been preferable, we applaud any effort to get to the bottom of the problems at the DMV and welcome the audit by the Governor’s Department of Finance.”

Another issue the DMV has been struggling with are outages resulting from outdated technological infrastructure. Since 2017, there have been 35 outages across DMV field offices.

Ranging from minutes to hours, the outages fueled criticism toward the DMV. California governor candidate John Cox has repeatedly called for the department’s director to resign.

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Zach Li