Audit: Texas DPS driver license paper trail insufficient

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new audit finds the system for information Texans turn over to the state to get a driver license or identification card lacks security.

A state audit of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) concluded the agency lacks “sufficient controls over its processes” for issuing driver licenses and identification cards.

The report released by the State Auditor’s Office indicated DPS did not ensure it “consistently collected or retained all required documentation to support its verification of applicants’ eligibility.” Auditors conducted experiments and other testing on processes and data monitoring for a period of nearly 18 months.

“It definitely concerns me. I wouldn’t want my information to be essentially out there for anybody to just essentially get their hands on,” said Javier Benitez, who applied for a driver license on Wednesday. “I imagine everyone feels this way.”

During that Sept. 2016 to Feb. 2018 timeframe, auditors discovered that DPS did not have required documentation (applications, proof of Social Security numbers, proof of Texas residency, thumbprint scans, and skills test results) for 25 percent of the 60 noncommercial driver licenses and identification cards tested. The agency was missing documentation for 40 percent of the 60 commercial driver licenses tested, according to the report. During that time, driver license workers processed approximately 10.5 million licenses and cards and collected $205.7 million in fees.

Among the recommendations in the document, the auditors suggested DPS “document policies and procedures for the reviews of driver licenses and identification cards that its regional offices are required to perform,” and “ensure that its regional offices document the specific driver licenses and identification cards and type of driver licenses it reviewed each month and the results of those reviews.”

The 26-page audit also highlighted a “lack of effective oversight” over the process of issuing licenses and ID cards.

“The Driver License System also allows employees to complete a driver license and identification card transaction and issue a temporary driver license or identification card without uploading scans of all required documents,” the reviewers claimed.

In a statement, a DPS spokesperson said the driver license system is a “function and responsibility that is a top priority for DPS.”

“The department did not issue a license or identification card to any ineligible applicant,” DPS communications director Katherine Cesinger said. She said the department “agrees that oversight and review processes can be improved,” and DPS asked lawmakers for more resources to in order to accomplish that.

“I personally have confidence in our government agencies that they are going to do that,” John Suberbille, who spent Wednesday afternoon at a driver license office in central Texas.

A report from the state’s Sunset Advisory Commission suggested the driver license operations transfer to the purview of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The commission approved a third-party study to “perform an analysis and make recommendations on opportunity and challenges” of transferring the program. A report with the analysis and recommendations will be due by Sept. 1, 2020. The report that included the commission decisions also stated that if lawmakers do not fund the third-party analysis in the 86th Legislative Session, the driver license program “shall be transferred to TxDMV effective September 1, 2021.”

A spokesperson for TxDMV said agency leaders would “work diligently and cooperatively” with DPS “to ensure such an evaluation is provided” should lawmakers move forward with the study.

Benitez said he expected the DPS to follow through with making changes.

“If there is stuff that has been called out and needs to be done, then it definitely needs the spotlight,’ he explained.

The State Auditor’s Office posted the entire report and summary on its website.

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