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State Losing Millions From Uncollected Fines

LINCOLN (CBS13) ― The State of California is losing out on millions of dollars each year because state agencies are not collecting the fines and penalties they've levied.

State Controller John Chiang says three separate audits conducted over the last two years uncovered a loss of at least $80 million, but it could be even more because the records of several state agencies are not accurate or reliable.

"The audits show these agencies do not place a high priority on collecting millions of dollars owed to cash-starved California, even though it is their legal responsibility," Chiang said. "As a result, substandard accounting practices have left taxpayers to pick up the tab for drunk drivers and unscrupulous businesses and employers."
 
The three agencies audited were the California Highway Patrol, the Public Utilities Commission, and the Department of Industrial Relations.
 
Under the law, agencies that receive money, whether from fines, penalties or the issuance of licenses, must make an effort to collect the money. But the audits of the three agencies showed that the debt collection wasn't a priority.  Chiang says they didn't even fully record what was owed or collected. 

"Unfortunately, poor collection efforts are not unique to these three agencies, and likely are a systemic problem that plagues the State's 170 departments, boards and commissions," said Chiang. 

Chiang says he is recommending the state consider legislation that would require agencies to correct the problem including better accounting, periodic audits and possibly penalize agencies that chronically fail to collect those funds.