Over 1,900 Driver’s Licenses Issued in the Name of Deceased Individuals

Auditor Bump points to inadequate use of data as source of problem


After an audit released today by her office revealed that the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) issued 1,905 driver’s licenses to individuals after their date of death, State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump called on the agency to take actions to prevent potentially fraudulent forms of identification from being issued. According to the audit, 97 percent of these licenses were still listed as active as of January 2018. The audit points to the RMV’s failure to properly use databases, such as the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, to identify and deactivate licenses of deceased individuals and to ensure new licenses are not issued in the name of a deceased person.

“The failure to prevent individuals from obtaining identification under the names of deceased people creates a significant public safety risk to the Commonwealth. Fixing this problem must be a top priority for the RMV,” Bump said. “Recent upgrades to the computer systems at the RMV provide it with more tools; now the agency must use them in conjunction with the data sources at its disposal to address this problem.”

Bump is also calling on the RMV to improve its oversight of disability parking placards after the audit found that the agency had processed over 10,000 requests for disability parking placards from individuals who were deceased according to the Death Master File. Additionally, Bump encouraged the agency to require individuals with a permanent handicap placard to reapply every five years, rather than the current practice of automatically renewing these placards. She also called on the agency to improve its process for replacing placards, noting that the current process can be easily abused. The audit notes that failure to address these problems could result in lost parking meter revenue and deprive people with disabilities of needed parking. A 2016 report from the Massachusetts Inspector General’s Office found significant abuse of handicap placards in the Commonwealth.

This is not the first time Bump’s audits have found state agencies failing to remove deceased individuals from their program rolls. In a 2013 audit of the Department of Transitional Assistance, she found the agency paid over $2 million in benefits to deceased people. In a 2016 audit of the Massachusetts State Retirement Board, she noted the agency made more than $687,000 in payments to deceased pensioners.

Finally, Bump notes that the RMV’s process for documenting its revenue needs significant improvement.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles is a division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). It issues and maintains records related to motor vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses and enforces motor vehicle laws to promote highway safety. It is also tasked with managing driver’s licenses, disability parking placards, motor vehicle registrations, and vehicle inspections. It also is responsible for collecting fees for registrations, vehicle titles, driver’s licenses, and other items. During the audit period, the RMV had approximately 733 employees. It had a budget of approximately $85.9 million in fiscal year 2016.

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