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Audit Faults State Driving Program

Audit-fault-newswire

AUSTIN, Texas -- Individuals who lacked driver's licenses or who had a criminal history have been allowed to drive poor people to doctor appointments because of lax supervision by the Texas Department of Transportation, auditors reported Tuesday.

The Texas Medical Transportation Program is a $95 million a year taxpayer-financed program that provides non-emergency transportation to more than 196,000 indigent Texans for doctors appointments and medical treatments. The program was transferred from the Texas Department of Health to the transportation agency in 2006.

The State Auditors Office reported that transportation officials have been inadequately supervising the companies that are hired to provide the actual transportation services. Auditors said the department had conducted no monitoring of transportation providers in the San Antonio and Rio Grande Valley areas.

"Auditors visited four of the largest transportation providers and determined that a substantial number of their drivers had criminal backgrounds or invalid driver's licenses," auditors said.

"In addition, a large number of transportation providers' subcontractors did not comply with liability or workers' compensation insurance requirements."

The auditors found the transportation company with the most problems was American Medical Response, based in Greenwood Village, Colo.

AMR provided auditors with a list of 854 drivers, but the report said AMR was unable to give them a complete list.

Of the disclosed drivers, auditors reviewed the records of 179 AMR drivers and found 34 with criminal histories that would have disqualified them, and 29 with invalid driver's licenses. The report said most of the criminal backgrounds involved misdemeanors.

AMR provides transportation for the indigent in Houston, Beaumont, San Antonio and the Panhandle, said transportation agency spokesman Mark Cross.

Cross said many of the problems resulted from transferring the program from the health department.

Transportation officials in their response to the audit said program staff levels and management plans will be in place by next February to provide proper supervision to the transportation companies.

r.g.ratcliffe@chron.com

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