Audit Says State Lacked Justification for New Plane

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JEFFERSON CITY - A new audit released Tuesday questions whether Missouri officials were justified in buying a $5.6 million airplane frequently used by Governor Jay Nixon. Auditor Tom Schweich said the Missouri State Highway Patrol did not do a formal written analysis before purchasing the plane last December. The audit contends Missouri's existing passenger planes were already underutilized.

"We did conduct a thorough analysis of the needs and usage before purchasing the 2012 King Air 250," Captain Tim Hull said. "The patrol did not track the instances of when a flight was requested and an airplane was not available. We are aware through course of business that it receives many requests from multiple agencies to conduct flights."

Records obtained by The Associated Press show Nixon was the only elected state official to use the new plane during the first three months of this year.  But Hull says that is not the case.

"We are using it for also patrol business," Hull said. "We have had several occasions where we've flown our staff members to meetings around the state. We have also had instances where we've had criminal investigations where we use these planes."

State auditor Thomas Schweich said audits are done regularly, and the airplane situation was not the only reason the Missouri Highway Patrol received a fair rating.

"There was for example they are supposed to do physical inventory of their computers and we found that over $96 million of their items were not included in their inventory and that some of the troops did not do any inventory for a two year period when it is supposed to be done annually."

Another reason for the fair rating is the inadequate state school bus inspection regulations and procedures.

Both Hull and Schweich acknowledged the issue was addressed and inspections are improving.

Schweich said the state will do a follow-up audit to make sure the highway patrol is following all of the recommendations.