HELENA, MT - Citing fleet totals from 4,800 to more than 7,000 vehicles is among several inconsistencies found in a recent audit of Montana's state fleet, according to the Helena Independent Record.

A recent legislative audit of the state's vehicle fleet, noted that "the state does not have a comprehensive and accurate vehicle inventory" and "lacks a system for collecting essential information." Estimates from various corners in recent months have ranged from 4,800 to 7,000 vehicles or more, depending upon the source of the information and what all is included in the definition of "vehicle" - a discrepancy of about 2,000, reported the Record.

The state's vehicle fleet is decentralized, with each agency responsible for buying and maintaining its own vehicles. Departments can also lease vehicles from the Department of Transportation Motor Pool. The audit's top recommendation was for a fleet management system that's consistent across all agencies. The audit, which studied six agencies, found discrepancies in maintenance records, vehicle assignments, and take-home vehicle policy.

While the state spends approximately $30 million annually on its vehicle fleet, the Record reported many of the vehicles are underutilized. Auditors suggested that increased rentals from the motor pool or reimbursing employees for using their own cars might be more efficient in some cases, and noted that some low mileage vehicles may be necessary.

In the coming weeks, the state of Montana will implement a $65,000 software package to be used by all 13 agencies in an effort to standardize the tracking of registration, usage, and maintenance of the state's several thousand vehicles, reported the Record.