Legislative Auditor looking into problems with new motor vehicle computer system

Minnesota’s new motor vehicle computer system is designed to be a faster way to get license, tabs and transfers done. But the switch to the new system, MNLARS, hasn’t been smooth and now the Legislative Auditor is taking a closer look at the issues.

Tom Skoogman of Chaska needed a new set of license plates and tabs for his cars at home. He paid for both online last month. Skoogman received his plates in the mail, but the tabs that expired Monday never showed up. He spent more than an hour at a walk-in deputy registrar office on Monday getting the issue resolved. 

“I had documentation with me,” said Skoogman. “They honored the documentation. They looked it up. But obviously, the transaction never got completed initially.”

Skoogman is most definitely not alone. Frustrations and complaints have poured in from across Minnesota since the state switched to its new motor vehicle licensing and registration system in July.

Officials with the Department of Public Safety, hailed the new computer system as a huge upgrade over its 30-year-old predecessor, promising faster processing times. But by most accounts, the first few weeks have been bumpy.

“It’s not a complete failure,” said Rep. Paul Torkelson, the Chairman of the Minnesota House Transportation Finance Committee. “There are certain aspects working. We hope to build on that and get more pieces up and running.”

In a recent memo obtained by Fox 9, Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles is taking a fresh look at the problems from calculation errors to an inability to process certain transactions. The biggest worry, Nobles writes, is that Minnesota isn’t able to promptly transfer money collected by the deputy registrars at offices into the state treasury. He describes it as “a significant amount of money.”

Rep. Torkelson says he hopes the issues will soon be resolved.

“Certainly hoping its bugs that we can work out in fairly short order because some pieces are working,” said Torkelson. “We want to get them all working soon.”

DPS declined Fox 9’s request for an on-camera interview. An official said DPS has been in touch with the Legislative Auditor's Office and will "continue to provide any information they request."

The official went on to point out that the new system has processed hundreds of thousands of transactions in under a month, about 20 percent more than the old system typically handled.

Full memo from Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles to the Legislative Audit Commission

"In mid-July, the Department of Public Safety’s Drive and Vehicle Services (DVS) Division and Minnesota IT Services (MNIT) rolled out the motor vehicle portion of the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS). As you likely know, there have been a number of problems with the initial rollout.

"I am writing to let you know that OLA staff have been monitoring this situation. We know that a number of deputy registrar offices are experiencing a range of problems with the new system. The problems include delays, calculation errors, and an inability to process certain transactions. We are concerned about the problems deputy registrars are having. In fact, we had OLA staff visit one deputy registrar’s office to witness these problems first-hand.

"In addition, we are especially concerned that the state is not able to promptly transfer revenues collected by deputy registrars from motor vehicle transactions into the state treasury. Prior to MNLARS implementation, the state would “sweep” the deputy registrar bank accounts every night and transfer transaction revenue to the state. The last time such a transfer occurred was on July 24, 2017.

"Given the current situation, we have not been able to determine how much money is involved, but state officials acknowledged to us that the amount is significant. They also told us that correcting this situation is their top priority. We will continue to monitor the situation."