Pittsburgh controller's audit criticizes city car rentals

$174,000 spent on car rentals since '10

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The city of Pittsburgh should consider new ways to purchase goods and services, Controller Michael Lamb said Thursday after releasing an audit that criticizes Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration for spending more than $174,000 on rental cars since January 2010.

Mr. Lamb said the city should consider short-term purchases through Internet auctions as an alternative to long-term contracts with vendors such as Dollar Rent A Car, which has worked with the city since 2006.

Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said the administration is open to new ways of saving taxpayer money. However, she dismissed the audit as grandstanding by a prospective mayoral candidate and questioned auditors' decision to compare the city's auto rental rates with Allegheny County's longer term auto lease rates.

"It looks like Lamb's report is comparing an apple and an orange," she said.

The police bureau has spent about $89,450 on rentals since January 2010, while Citiparks and the Office of Municipal Investigations have spent about $79,000 and about $5,700, respectively, the audit said. Police and OMI investigators use rentals for short-term undercover work, while Citiparks uses them to haul personnel and equipment for activities and events, primarily during the summer and fall.

After a competitive bidding process, the city established a contract with Dollar Rent A Car in 2006. In 2010, the company raised the rates on the minivans that constitute half of the city's rentals, the audit said. The city's weekly rates now range from $203.50 for an economy car to $330 for a minivan.

The audit said the city remained with Dollar even though it had the opportunity in 2008 to join the county in a lower-cost vehicle leasing contract with BBL Fleet of South Fayette. If it had joined the county lease program, Mr. Lamb said in an interview, the city might have saved $25,000 to $30,000 since 2010.

Ms. Doven said the city rents vehicles for periods that are too short to qualify for leases. And if the city leased vehicles unnecessarily, Mr. Lamb would blame the administration for letting them go unused, Ms. Doven said, noting that the controller last year criticized what he described as unused Bureau of Building Inspection cars.

Mr. Lamb responded that the city's rental costs are so high that leasing might be a better value.

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Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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