State auditor finds conflicts of interest in transportation contract
JEFFERSON CITY - The state auditor's office released a report Thursday detailing what it found to be "questionable communications and actions" by state employees over Missouri's weigh in motion contract.
According to a press release from Auditor Nicole Galloway, Missouri uses electronic weigh station technology, which means trucks can bypass traditional stations while sending data to the state. HELP, Inc. has been the provider of this service for more than a decade.
"Trucks subscribe to the PrePass program or Drivewyze program, and with that goes a transponder inside their vehicle," said MoDOT Special Projects Coordinator, Aaron Hubbard.
The transponder is what lets a truck driver know if they can bypass a weigh station or not.
In 2014, the company Drivewyze made a deal with the state to provide similar services as part of a pilot program. But Galloway said she found state employees with conflicts of interest gave preferential treatment to HELP, Inc.
Galloway started her investigation in April 2017. As part of the investigation, auditors looked at communications from people who worked for MoDOT and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who also served on the board of HELP, Inc. Galloway said those communications suggested the board members may have been biased by their relationship with HELP, Inc. while dealing with Drivewyze.
"This report outlines years of improper communications and actions that led to one vendor being unfairly favored over another," Galloway said. "Just as concerning, is the appearance that these allegations were not taken seriously by state officials until much later as our work was bringing the details to light."
The Highway Patrol announced in May 2017 its personnel would no longer work with HELP, Inc. But Galloway said there was no documentation of any changes to policy.
The Highway Patrol released a statement that said MSHP fully cooperated with the audit and that "traffic safety continues to be a priority with the Patrol and we will continue to work with our partners to make Missouri roadways safer for everyone, including commercial motor vehicles."
MoDOT reported started an internal review in November 2017. In February 2018, MoDOT gave information to Galloway's office regarding discipline for certain employees and an update to its conflict of interest policies.
MoDOT released a statement that said in part quote:
- We have recognized a new entrant to the motor vehicle enforcement technology market and established a public procurement process to give access to other providers.
- We have discontinued our participation on the HELP, Inc. board and have stopped paying membership dues;
- We have taken appropriate personnel action; and
- We have identified training to help current MoDOT employees understand their post-employment responsibilities.