State reduces take-home cars

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Updated: .

Bob Segall/13 Investigates

Indianapolis - 13 Investigates showed the state's take-home car system has been plagued by abuse and poor oversight, and it's costing you millions of dollars each year. Now, a six month investigation into the state of your money is getting results.

Thousands of state cars and SUVs are classified as take-home vehicles, intended for business use. But Eyewitness News discovered many of them weren't being used for much business at all.

Instead, they were used for commuting to get state workers back and forth from home to work.

13 Investigates showed some state employees used their state vehicle to commute more than 20,000 miles a year while barely using it for any on-the-job travel.

The state wasn't really keeping track of its take-home vehicles, but that has changed.

Connie Smith, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Administration, said that since the investigation, the agency has helped identify hundreds of take-home cars to be revoked. Those cars were used for little work -- and lots of commuting -- a violation of state policy.

"Now we can evaluate with the agency (and ask) is this vehicle really needed?" Smith said. "The public law states your vehicle is to be used for work. It specifically states it does not involve mileage to and from your home."

Before our investigation, the state had 3,393 take-home vehicles. Now, it has 2,808 -- that's 585 fewer vehicles used for commuting, which will save taxpayers millions. 

"It's achieving a real worthwhile goal," Smith said.

But getting there isn't necessarily easy.  The state DNR took away 62 take-home cars. Indiana State Police cut 101, and the Indiana Department of Transportation parked 412. This means a lot of state workers not happy about losing their ride to work.

"If they've had a vehicle for a number of years and that's a change for them, obviously that's a change that's not welcome but it's one that's us being good stewards of taxpayers' dollars," said INDOT public information officer Will Wingfield.

INDOT and other agencies are continuing to analyze their take-home cars, and more cuts are expected.

"We can continue to reduce the numbers," Smith said. "We are getting there, and we're achieving results as you can see."

Immediately following our investigation, the state began a mandatory training program to help all agencies keep better track of their vehicles. Since then, take-home cars have been slashed by 17 percent, or about 100 cars per month.