Water main work by DPW crews. Photo via Baltimore City Department of Public Works/Twitter.

More than 160 vehicles, hand tools and pieces of equipment in the city’s fleet—from a forklift to dozens of pumps used for work on sewer lines, as well as trailers and other gear—have gone missing, according to a newly released audit by the Department of General Services.

The city’s spending board noted the audit this morning, after requesting that DGS “ensure that the information contained in DGS Fleet Management’s database was accurate and that all assets were properly recorded.” The agency looked into its inventory of 4,294 vehicles and pieces of equipment from early April through July of 2018.

What they found: One hundred and sixty-six assets “were reported as untraceable,” all but 20 of them from the Department of Public Works. The rest were from the Department of Transportation.

A look at the “lost assets” spreadsheet, available here, indicates at least 75 of the missing vehicles or apparatus are pumps used by DPW’s Water and Wastewater Bureau, along with 30 compactors, often used for patching roads or other surfaces. Assorted other items of note include a forklift, a 1982 Sea Nymph boat and 10 or so trailers.

DGS spokesman Ryan Trout sent along a statement on behalf of the agency and DPW saying much of the equipment is dated and largely consists of gear, rather than actual vehicles. “The vast majority of the missing assets are hand tools, trailers, and equipment, not vehicles. And, many of these are from the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s.”

DPW has since taken corrective action, he said, including creating a new Material Management Unit “as part of [the agency’s] ongoing efforts to be more accountable and efficient with the public’s money.”

Other steps include having personnel now “comb” all storage rooms at the agency’s water and solid waste yards and catalog every item into the Cityworks database. The same goes for vehicles, which are logged in the city’s fleet database. And any item taken out for use by a DPW employee or crew now comes with a “loan ticket” and “must be accounted for by those employees,” Trout said.

The DGS audit also found that 388 other vehicles were overdue for preventative maintenance, and were brought in for service as a result.

And 741 others needed to have their account numbers changed in DGS’ database, which the agency has since done.

DGS inspected 94 of the vehicles or pieces of equipment during the audit over several months.

“Impacted agencies were instructed to file police reports for those vehicles,” DGS Director Steve Sharkey wrote in a memo to the Board of Estimates accompanying the audit. DGS will remove them from the database after the agency has received reports on each one, he said.

Trout said all involved agencies, including DPW, are following up on lost assets as instructed. Reports have already been filed for any vehicle with a license plate, boats and trailers included, he said.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...