Federal agency says DMV owes $2.5 million

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles may owe the federal government $2.5 million.

The feds say the agency misused some of the money from its grant programs, but the DMV disagrees with the findings and doesn't want to pay up.

Police officer training, catching drunk drivers and traffic enforcement are just some of the programs the DMV helps pay for across the Commonwealth with federal grant money But from 2010 to 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration questioned the use of some of that money.

Click here to read the NHTSA's audit. (PDF)

The 12 On Your Side investigators obtained NHTSA's 45 page review. It's done every three years, but this time NHTSA claims the DMV used money for "unallowable costs" like $204,000 to fund a program for seniors to improve driving skills. The problem was the that money was supposed to be used for going after drunk drivers.

DMV spokesperson Sunni Brown said, "In that specific case, DMV does agree with NHTSA's findings and we acknowledge that was an error. We've put controls in place to make sure that doesn't happen again."

But there are two other grants totaling another $2.3 million. Again, the federal agency said the DMV misused the money.

"The DMV had been calculating these costs in the same methodology for decades, since the early 80s, and had never been called into question before," Brown said."

The report was issued more than a year ago. The two sides are still going back and forth. The DMV disputes some of the findings and hasn't paid any money back. NHTSA says it's been in close communication with Virginia.. The agency said, "The findings you identified are still under review and, consistent with standard agency practice, NHTSA cannot provide additional information at this time."

The DMV says if it has to pay all the millions back, it will come out of the general operating budget.

"I want to make it clear no DMV operations would be impacted," Brown said. "No grantee or highway safety programs that we fund would be impacted."

The DMV says no one will be fired or disciplined over the report.

The two sides are still hashing it out, and  the governor is aware of the problem. It's not clear when a final decision from NHTSA will be reached.

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