State audit slams CCC's collection of tolls - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

State audit slams CCC's collection of tolls

Updated:
Toll taker at the CCC toll plaza. Toll taker at the CCC toll plaza.

New Orleans, La.—A state audit shows the recently defunct Crescent City Connection Division, which is part of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development did a poor job of collecting tolls from thousands of drivers.

"It doesn't seem that we as a state have done an adequate job at setting up a toll collection system that works," said State Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, CPA.

The audit which covered the fiscal year which ended June 30,2012 found that the electronic toll collection system allowed "Geaux-pass" holders with insufficient dollars in their accounts to repeatedly cross the bridge for free. Approximately a million images of license plates of vehicles violating the tolls were not processed from previous years because of system and personnel constraints, allowing those violators to go without being billed by the CCC. Delinquent notices were not sent out for approximately 206,700 toll violations as required by state law, and vehicles with out-of-state license plates were not billed through fiscal year 2012 because there was no process to identify the registration details of the vehicles.

"We don't have any idea what the dollar amount of loss there is," said Purpera.

But he said if you simply take into account the million unprocessed images of violators' license plates then the amount of revenue that was not collected is staggering.

"You figure if 10-percent of those were collected you could be looking at one million to three million dollars of money that could be received by the bridge," stated Purpera.

The Department of Transportation and Development said it has tackled the problems highlighted in the audit.

"The state's tolling system is now functional, meets industry standards and is able to access violator information. Current collection rates are now well above the national average of 95 percent.

DOTD has hired a contractor to assist with reviewing unprocessed violation images from past years in order to ensure collection rates stay high and will also utilize employees who no longer need to collect tolls to assist in this process. DOTD is actively pursuing past violators," said DOTD spokeswoman Bambi Hall.

"We can see that they have made some changes to their system to where the "Geaux-pass" account should be taken care of, they're reviewing images on a current basis now," said Purpera.

"It's just more evidence of incompetence," said Attorney Patrick Hand, who represents the group, "Stop the Tolls."

The group is hoping to defeat a referendum on the ballot May 4th which would renew tolls on the bridge for another 20 years. Recently a judge ordered the state to stop collecting the tolls until the election is held.

"It's added to all the years of waste and abuse. I mean this is a form of waste," Hand said of the revelations contained in the audit report.

"I think it's one more reason to vote no to the unfair, unnecessary tolls," added Michael Teachworth, founder of "Stop the Tolls."

But some supporters of the tolls said Monday that their position is unchanged despite the scathing audit report.

Purpera also said the software the DOTD had been using as part of its internal controls has been problematic for some time.

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