The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles issued 1,905 licenses in the names of dead people, according to an audit released Thursday by the Massachusetts State Auditor. The RMV rejects the audit findings.
The office of the state auditor, Suzanne Bump, conducted a performance audit of the RMV for the period of July 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2016. The audit listed three large complaints of the RMV’s performance in the areas of licenses, disability parking placards and the misplacing of documentation.
In addition to the licenses issued in the names of dead people, the RMV failed to deactivate an additional 4,688 licenses for individuals who died before their licenses expired. Approximately 97 percent of these licenses remained listed as active as of January 2018, according to a press release from Bump’s office.
Bump’s office also found that the RMV processed over 10,000 requests for disability parking placards in the name of deceased people and was unable to locate supporting documentation for 24 percent of the transactions it recorded at that time.
After the audit was released, Bump called on the RMV to do more to prevent potentially false forms of identification from being released.
“The failure to prevent individuals from obtaining identification under the names of deceased people creates a significant public safety risk to the Commonwealth,” Bump said in a press release Thursday. “Fixing this problem must be a top priority for the RMV.”
Recent upgrades to the computer systems at the RMV provide the agency with more tools, she said. Bump explained that the agency must now use those tools in collaboration with the data sources to address the problem at hand.
Jordan Berini, 23, of Fenway, said the issuance of fraudulent passes and licenses makes the city less safe, but it was something he recognized from back home in Australia, where he said disability parking is often abused.
“Obviously, while I am in this town, I would like to be safe,” Berini said. “[This] makes the roads less safe. I wasn’t even aware this was a problem. They should go in and do what they need to get it done.”
The RMV has dismissed the findings of the audit as flawed, Jacquelyn Goddard, RMV spokesperson and communication director of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, wrote in an email.
“The Registry of Motor Vehicles rejects the findings in the Auditor’s report, especially the false claim that the RMV is issuing licenses to 1900 deceased individuals who the RMV has verified are alive” Goddard wrote. “This audit is outdated, as it was conducted before the implementation of an entirely new software system which has improved management and tracking capabilities.”
After the close of the audit period, the RMV moved to replace its legacy ALARS system with the ATLAS program, which allows for more online transactions and improves service delivery overall.
Mike Wessler, director of communications for Bump’s office, said that the state auditor was pleased that the RMV updated its system and that they hope this will help address the problems the audit pointed out. In response to the RMV’s rejection of its claims, Wessler said the state auditor stands by her findings.
“Our initial testing showed 36 licenses issued in the name of deceased individuals, the RMV agreed with this and referred these instances to the State Police,” Wessler said in a statement. “We used the same process to identify the 1,905 licenses and to identify over 10,000 disability parking placards that were issued in the name of deceased individuals, which the RMV has also not disputed.”
Margaret MacKay, 77, of Dorchester, said she thinks the RMV should require individuals to renew disability placards every three years in order to prevent abuse.
“I think the RMV needs an overhaul,” MacKay said. “They aren’t stringent enough on [the passes]. I think people can get them too easily, and I think people take advantage of them. People who don’t need them have them, and people borrow them and put them in their own cars.”