A city audit of the department that issues permits to taxis and other vehicles for hire found serious deficiencies in the way the program has been run.
It found the city was lax in collecting late fees for permits and did not collect some horse carriage permit fees, resulting in $30,000 in lost revenue.
Brian Williams, with the city auditor’s office, presented the report to the City Council's audit committee.
“In terms of driver- and vehicle-permitting, we found monitoring and records management issues there,” Williams said.
The Ground Transportation Program regulates taxis, limousines, tour buses, pedi-cabs and horse-drawn carriages.
The fees it charges for permits goes into city coffers and was as much as a half-million dollars in 2011. It also makes sure vehicles for hire and their drivers are in working order.
The audit also showed enforcement activity is insufficient to ensure drivers and vehicles are in compliance with city code.
"There was not sufficient documentation of the driver screening process to make sure that the drivers were properly permitted," Williams said.
The $30,000 loss happened when the city made a mistake in issuing permits for horse-drawn carriages. The city then issued temporary permits at no charge, resulting in the loss of fees.
Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh explained the no-charge temporary permits were issued while the city was doing a study to determine how many horse-drawn carriages downtown could handle.
He said the decision was made not to charge for permits because there was a great possibility carriages were going to be eliminated.
“We believed that, potentially, what would come out of the study would be a reduction in horse carriages, so we wanted to be in that temporary status,” Walsh said.
Now permit fees are being collected.
Police Chief Bill McManus said he is already working to fix the problems identified in the audit and most should be fixed by the end of the summer.
"We have either corrected the deficiency or we have a process in place to correct the deficiency," McManus said.
The KSAT 12 Defenders asked the owner of a horse carriage business to comment on his dealings with the city, but he never returned a phone call.
Meanwhile, the city says upgrades to the computer system will help keep track of permits and inspections. And some shift changes should put more personnel on duty at the right times.
“Through the use of volunteers, police volunteers, and changing some hours and some days off, we were able to spread that workload out,” McManus said.
District 8 City Councilman Reed Williams noted that any citizen reading that audit report would be scared seeing the results. He said he wants a progress update before the year's out.