The city of Los Angeles spent $12 million to set up a fuel-tracking program.
Despite this gigantic expenditure, the city cannot trace what happened to $7 million worth of gasoline and other fuel.
It turns out that millions of gallons were pumped without leaving any record.
Taxpayers might imagine that a $12 million fuel-tracking system would keep track of fuel. That shows how naive taxpayers are.
Does the city still use the fuel-tracking system? Of course. To replace it would cost millions more, which would be an admission of defeat. It would indicate the complete incompetence of the officials entrusted with buying the original system.
It turns out that most departments don’t use the system to monitor employees.
When did the city discover this? Last week. When was the system installed? Over 10 years ago.
How much does the city spend on fuel? About $29 million a year.
Some employees are issued fuel cards. Using a keypad each time they fill up, they’re expected to input their vehicle number and an odometer reading. Other city employees are assigned to vehicles that are equipped with a high-tech system that automatically logs the vehicle number, mileage and quantity of gas pumped during fueling.
But those tracking systems can be bypassed, either manually or with so-called “master cards” that are assigned to each of the city’s 141 fuel sites.
Then there was this. About 94.000 transactions occurred in which the odometer reading at the time of refueling was lower than at the previous re-fueling.
I think this is suspicious. So does the auditor, who is running for mayor. This leads to North’s rule for auditors who run for office: “When the auditor is running for mayor, bureaucrats start running for cover.”
Since 1999, the city has paid an outside company to help it monitor fuel levels and usage. Every fuel transaction is recorded in a database managed by the Department of General Services, which in turn makes the data available to other departments. But according to the audit, only the Police Department analyzes fuel transaction data on a regular basis.
And so it goes, city after city, generation after generation.
The voters are powerless. Once voters accept the idea of government as a healer, they cannot bring themselves to pull the plug on the spending machine.