Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 8, 2013

Audit dings state for inspections

Associated Press

---- — LANSING (AP) — A Michigan agency needs to do better at holding gas stations and other businesses accountable for inaccurate measuring devices so that consumers get what they pay for, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

Auditors who reviewed state inspections said the state didn’t fine business owners enough, didn’t re-inspect some bad scales and pumps within the desired 35 days, and didn’t inspect a small percentage of gas stations within a recommended four-year time frame.

The performance audit found four “reportable” conditions, a less serious designation than a “material” finding.

State officials agreed with most recommendations for improvement but took issue with suggestions that they are not punishing businesses enough.

“We focus on compliance. While the auditor general may think we should penalize people, that’s not how we do business,” said Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. “We think we do better job working on compliance and holding them there rather than simply fining people.”

State law lets the agency impose fines of between $150 and $2,500 on businesses with inaccurate weighing and measuring devices, though it can levy bigger fines that are equal to the estimated amount a business overcharges the public.

Auditors randomly selected 27 of 247 businesses that failed inspections and found that fines were imposed for just one of 45 inaccurate devices. Adams said the department prefers that businesses spend money to fix the devices rather than pay fines.

“If we had someone who was perpetually breaking the rules, we’d come down on them and there’d be penalties involved,” she said.

According to the audit, 179, or about 4 percent, of Michigan’s nearly 4,800 gas stations were not inspected at least once within four years.