An audit of the Texas Department of Public Safety suggests the agency may have given out thousands of driver’s licenses without properly ensuring recipients live in Texas, have Social Security numbers or passed their road tests.
The report released Wednesday by the Texas State Auditor’s Office said that the department currently lacks “sufficient controls” to make sure that applicants in fact meet the qualifications for a license or ID card.
A sample of 60 standard ID cards and licenses were tested in the audit. One quarter lacked necessary documentation. For commercial licenses, that figure was even higher: 40 percent of those tested in the audit had missing documentation. All licenses and IDs tested in the audit were issued between September 2016 and February 2018.
In 2008, DPS started requiring applicants for driver’s licenses to provide proof they are in the country legally. That policy was challenged in court but ended up getting codified into law by the legislature three years later — and efforts to eliminate it have been unsuccessful. Katherine Cesinger, a spokesperson for DPS, said she believes the state agency has been able to properly enforce the state law.
“The department did not issue a license or identification card to any ineligible applicant,” Cesinger said in a statement.
Wednesday’s audit said that there was a “lack of effective oversight” on how IDs are issued — a process that generally relies on DPS employees to do everything on their own.
DPS acknowledged these shortcomings in a response that was included as part of the audit report.
For example, the agency said, those employees don’t receive an automatic notification when fields — like the one for a Social Security number — are left blank on forms or when documents have not been properly scanned. DPS said it would “strengthen its current control environment” to make sure anyone who is getting a license presented all the necessary forms.
But the agency also pushed back on the idea that this gap would be easy to fix.
“Due to the volume of transactions,” it said in the report, “the department would need significant additional management resources to extend its current supervisory reviews.”
Right now, the audit said, the agency depends on its regional offices to look out for problems and conduct reviews. But DPS has no documented procedures for how to do so — or to make sure the reviews are happening to begin with.
For that to happen, DPS said, each supervisor would have to go one-by-one to look at whether each driver’s license application — and supporting forms, such as birth certificates or proof of address — were being correctly entered into the system.
State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said that he supports the proof of papers law for driver’s license applicants and added that he is willing to work with DPS to take any corrective action.
“They have a tremendously large job to do with regards to records management and retention,” King said, noting that he had not yet had a chance to read the report. “If there’s anything that needs correcting, I know they’ll be eager to do that.”
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2018/12/19/drivers-licenses-may-be-given-out-without-necessary-documents-audit-sa/. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.