Auditor: Patrol didn't show need for new plane

The Missouri Highway Patrol didn't do a formal analysis to justify its purchase of a new airplane late last year, State Auditor Tom Schweich said in a 37-page report released this morning.

State government owns five airplanes regularly used for carrying passengers, the audit said — two owned and operated by the Patrol and three owned and operated by the Conservation department.

There was no day in 2012 when at least one of the state's five passenger aircraft was not available for use — and 113 days when none of the airplanes were being used, auditors found.

So, the audit said, there needs to be more coordination among the agencies before buying an expensive new plane.

Schweich said the Patrol also didn't justify buying a new plane when a used aircraft would have been just as good — and much less expensive.

In its response, the patrol said it conducted "a thorough analysis of needs and usage" before buying a new King Air 250, at a "reduced price of $5.59 million.

Schweich and his staff already were working on the audit when lawmakers complained in January that the new airplane purchase was unnecessary, and, possibly, bought to help Gov. Jay Nixon's future political ambitions.

But the patrol's airplane usage isn't the only subject of the new audit.

Schweich's report said the patrol needs to do a better job of monitoring vehicle inspection stations — especially the ones checking school buses.

He said the patrol also needs to do more back-checking when a spot-inspection finds a defective school bus, to pinpoint possible inadequate safety inspections.

And the report cited several areas where the patrol needs to improve the way it handles money.

"All government agencies, regardless of their function, need to operate in accordance with sound fiscal practices, and not waste taxpayer dollars," Schweich told the News Tribune this morning. "And when problems are found — they need to correct the problems rather than shooting the messenger."

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