EDITORIAL: Use audit to find DMV's problems
Feb 11, 2013 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Most people have a horror story to share about standing in line at the city's Division of Motor Vehicles, Licensing and Permits. The close encounter with the DMV is a common experience in Honolulu and in most major cities -- it's an agency where most people have to make an appearance at some point because most people have a car registered.
Into what's already a bureaucratic juggling act are now added new tasks, and it's clear that the DMV could use independent advice on getting things in hand.
So, unfortunate though it is that it's come to intervention, City Councilman Stanley Chang's proposal for an audit seeking solutions makes sense.
Chang's resolution, which will be heard Feb. 26 by the Council Parks Committee, would direct city Auditor Edwin Young to investigate the reason for the persistent long lines at the agency's various offices and recommend possible solutions.
While a DMV excursion is never fun, the division is clearly not yet up to the additional chore of issuing the state ID cards. There is now $223,000 in the operating budget for nine new positions to handle that job; the Legislature must allot the funds this session to reimburse the counties for the additional costs.
Problems with delayed service actually started intensifying last summer when the requirements for additional documents took effect with the implementation of the federal Legal Presence Act, a national security measure.
And challenges seem likely to mount before things get much better. In December, the Department of Homeland Security announced its intent to defer for six months any enforcement of identification-card standards imposed by the Real ID ACT. Hawaii is among the majority of states that does not yet meet the tougher standards. Among other rules, new cards issued under the act must have features that guard against counterfeiting and must enable data to be machine-readable, such as through bar codes or smart-card technology.
Finally, a recent breakdown in computer systems in November at the agency served as another reminder of the ongoing problems with antiquated information technology scattered across government operations statewide. Until systems are modernized, there are built-in limitations to efficiency.
Still, there ought to be some improvements in division routines that could be made in the meantime.
In the proposed measure, Resolution 13-27, suggestions include the implementation of "pit bosses" who can manage workflow and customer inquiries, as well as online innovations that monitor wait times and other management tasks.
The Council should readily pass the resolution in the hope that the city auditor can illuminate the situation.
The city has a history of showing some responsiveness to complaints about service delivery; the decades-old solution of satellite city halls was one example of this. More recently, the release of smart-phone applications made some communications with City Hall a bit easier.
But the situation at the DMV shows how much more progress is needed.
Registering vehicles and issuing the credentials people need to drive, travel and access other government services is a crucial function. The Council should promptly take action to see that the city can deliver on that responsibility.
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