BMV officials tell lawmakers that agency reforms underway but will take years to complete

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INDIANAPOLIS — Significant reforms are underway at the troubled Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, officials said Thursday, but noted those will likely take several years to carry out and won't come from "quick fixes" to the agency, which in recent years has overcharged motorists millions of dollars in fees.

"These are not easy tasks and are not going to be quick fixes that are going to happen just this year," BMV chief of staff Peter Lacy told a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers.

Agency officials went before lawmakers to explain actions they have taken since a scathing audit in May found motorists had been overcharged more than $60 million in fees since 2013. The report said the agency lacked oversight, used a complex fee schedule that led to inconsistent charges for the same transactions and may have overcharged motorists more than previously disclosed.

The BMV is responsible for administering 1,200 different fees and taxes, and the audit said that those fees did not always match with names listed in state code, requiring judgment and creating a risk of error by workers.

Several months before the audit, amid a steady drip of revelations about overcharges and a settlement in a class-action lawsuit that raised serious questions about the competency of top-level BMV managers, Republican Gov. Mike Pence appointed Kent Abernathy to be commissioner of the agency.

Current management at the BMV has made significant progress and started to make many of the changes he asked for, Democratic Rep. Dan Forestal, a critic of the agency, said.

BMV officials told the committee that a newly created internal auditing team will continually investigate problems, and any that are found will be reported to the state auditor, Legislature and the governor. They have also created the "prideline" — a direct pipeline for agency workers to report problems to managers.

Additionally, lawmakers say they intend to take next session to overhaul the complex and confusing sections of state code that govern the BMV fees. There are also plans to streamline the agency's bureaucracy and categories of licenses that are issued, as well as improve the technology used for the BMV's operating system.

While Forestal said he was optimistic about the direction the agency was headed, many important details still need to be ironed out — especially the voluminous number of agency fees. Forestal says he wants that list to fit on one page "so that Hoosiers can look at what they are paying know that it's what they are supposed to be paying and there's no question about it."

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