Audit: Cabbies soaked passengers $14.8 million by long-hauling

Taxicab Authority Police Investigator II L. Walker talks to a taxi driver at a long haul checkpoint near the entrance to the airport tunnel exiting McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Friday, June 8, 2012. The driver did not get a ticket.

Long Haul Checkpoint

Taxicab Authority Police Senior Investigator I. Williams stop taxi driver Tesfaye Beshah at a long haul checkpoint near the entrance to the airport tunnel exiting McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Friday, June 8, 2012. Beshah got a ticket for long hauling. Launch slideshow »

An audit by a state agency found nearly a quarter of taxi trips from the Las Vegas airport in 2012 involved illegal long-hauling in which passengers were overcharged an estimated $14.8 million.

A report issued today by the audit division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau said of 2,730 trip sheets reviewed by auditors, 614 of them — 22.5 percent — included reports of drivers taking passengers on a longer route than necessary.

The long-hauling issue has been a chronic problem for the Nevada Taxicab Authority, which regulates Clark County’s 16 cab companies.

“Although the authority has increased its efforts to detect long-hauling, more needs to be done, including the use of preventative measures,” the audit report summary said. “Taxicab trips are often the first and last experience tourists have in Las Vegas. Therefore, long-hauling may result in tourists having a negative experience.”

The report said that in 2003, the Legislature provided additional resources to the agency so that it could audit cab companies.

“However, audits have not occurred because management assigned other tasks to staff responsible for performing audits,” the report said.

The Taxicab Authority staff accepted eight recommendations listed in the audit report and is expected to deliver a plan to correct problems by mid-July.

A Taxicab Authority meeting had been scheduled Tuesday but was canceled last week. Among the items on the agenda was a request for a rehearing on a proposal to test RideIntegrity, a computer software and hardware system developed by Frias Transportation Infrastructure to detect and deter long-hauling in real time.

The report also said the agency did not conduct taxicab company audits for three and a half years. As a result, the agency did not detect that drivers had not time-stamped trip sheets that verify the number of hours worked.

Auditors said that presented potential safety issues with drivers working too long and becoming fatigued.

The authority also didn’t properly monitor medallions — the small metal plates that signify licensure — resulting in inaccurate information presented to the board on lost or stolen medallions.

“Specifically, staff did not perform annual medallion inventories, rotate medallions annually and verify a medallion’s status when performing enforcement activities,” the report said.

“In addition, taxicab companies frequently reported inaccurate information related to lost or stolen medallions. As a result, one company received an extra medallion, which it had for approximately 14 months,” the report said. “Another company reported 76 of 114 (67 percent) authorized medallions as lost or stolen since 2006. Because the authority has not maintained an accurate medallion inventory, there is a greater risk companies will gain unauthorized market share.”

The audit also said that while the authority staff has improved cash controls since the last audit, additional controls are needed over cash receipts. The audit said key duties were not properly separated, supervision over cash receipts was not adequate, computer system access controls were weak and outdated policies and procedures contributed to weaknesses.

The Taxicab Authority, a self-funded agency, routinely receives more than $500,000 a year from license applications and fines assessed against drivers.