11/1/2007Texas DOT Used Unlicensed Drivers for Medical Transport
Texas Department of Transportation used criminals and unlicensed drivers to transport patients to hospitals and medical appointments.
A Texas State Auditor report issued this week found nearly one-third of drivers in a state program designed to bring indigent patients to medical appointments were either criminals or lacked a valid license to drive.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is responsible for the state's Medical Transportation Program that brought 196,308 patients to hospitals and appointments with doctors this year. The auditor showed that lax oversight on the part of TxDOT allowed contractors to employ personnel that should not have been allowed to drive at all.
"Sixteen percent of the drivers' records auditors tested at four of the largest transportation providers indicated that the drivers had criminal backgrounds that would disqualify them from driving under TxDOT's contract requirements," the report found. "Of the 239 drivers tested, 16 percent had criminal backgrounds and 14 percent had invalid driver's licenses."
The auditor was unable to obtain a more complete listing of the 1322 drivers involved in the program to perform a more complete background check.
TxDOT spent $103,531,343 on the program in fiscal year 2007. The average cost of each one-way trip was $25, with some trips long-distance trips averaging four times that amount. The audit concluded that the costs were reasonable.
TxDOT officials point to a survey showing a majority of participants were satisfied with the service that they received. Texas Toll Party founder Sal Costello countered that the audit report is a sign of a more fundamental problem at a department which has devoted its energy toward proposals that expand its ability to collect revenue through tolls.
"TxDOT is a rogue agency severely in need of some accountability," Costello told TheNewspaper. "TxDOT is so focused on becoming a unaccountable taxing authority that it can't even administer the very basics of a simple program."
Costello said that the only true remedy involved changing TxDOT itself.
"The bureaucratic TxDOT needs to be totally restructured, beginning with the requirement that TxDOT commissioners are elected, not appointed."
A full copy of the report is available in a 1.7mb PDF file at the source link below.