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Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Acceptance of Gifts by Driver License Center

2014 General Investigation Report Summary

Approved for Public Release


            In July 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) received a complaint alleging gifts were provided to employees of a Driver License Center by an unnamed entity (Contractor) contracting with PennDOT to provide vehicle registration and related services to the public and that, as a result, PennDOT employees directed business to the Contractor.  PennDOT referred the complaint to the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General (OIG), which conducted an investigation of the allegations.  In January 2015, OIG completed its investigation and provided information to PennDOT.




            PennDOT contracts with entities (including the Contractor) which provide vehicle registration and related services that may not be provided by a local Driver License Center.  The complaint alleged the Contractor provided unspecified “gifts” to PennDOT employees at a Driver License Center and, as a result, the employees referred PennDOT customers exclusively to the Contractor for vehicle registration and related services not provided by the local Driver License Center.  PennDOT referred the complaint to OIG for an independent investigation.


OIG’s investigation included: interviews of the complainant, the owner of the Contractor, and of PennDOT employees working at the Driver License Center; an examination of PennDOT records, including agreements with the Contractor and other similar entities and informational documents provided to the Driver License Center’s customers; and, a review of the Commonwealth’s and PennDOT’s policies regarding the acceptance of gifts, which were applicable at the time the gifts were alleged to have been provided, i.e. prior to July 2014.




            OIG initially investigated to successfully learn the name of the Contractor and identities of any other witnesses.  With this information, OIG was able to conduct interviews of the owner of the Contractor and PennDOT employees who may have received “gifts” from the Contractor.


            OIG discovered the Contractor had a tradition of delivering cookies to PennDOT Driver License Centers during the holidays.  The tradition was started by the father of the current owner of the Contractor when the individual’s father operated the business.  The cookies were homemade (not purchased from a store or dessert delivery business) and were of nominal value.  The cookies were presented on an ordinary tray and not a basket or other decorative container and were for everyone at the Center and not any specific employee(s).


PennDOT’s written policies prohibit employees from accepting loans, offers, gratuities, favors, services, or other proffered arrangements for personal benefit from persons doing business with PennDOT, and PennDOT employees are also required to sign a “Gifts and Favors Policy,” which lists prohibited and permitted activities.  Finally, the agreement between PennDOT and the Contractor prohibits the Contractor from offering PennDOT employees “money, gifts, or other items of substantial value . . . .”


OIG found no evidence that PennDOT employees violated the Commonwealth’s or PennDOT’s policies or that the Contractor violated the agreement with PennDOT, as existing at the time the cookies were provided – prior to July 2014.  The cookies were of nominal (not substantial) value, were provided for consumption by all employees, and were not intended to encourage PennDOT employees to favor the Contractor.  The PennDOT employees interviewed by OIG confirmed the cookies did not persuade them to refer PennDOT customers to any specific entity contracted with PennDOT, including the Contractor.  OIG discovered that on at least one occasion a PennDOT employee initially refused to accept the cookies on behalf of the Driver License Center, but then agreed to accept them and removed the Contractor’s business card from the tray before placing them in a common area for consumption by all employees at the Center.


            OIG also reviewed informational documents used by PennDOT employees at various Driver License Centers in referring customers to entities for vehicle registration and related services.  OIG found the lists did not accurately include all entities contracted with PennDOT for the services; however, none of the inaccuracies indicated any improper behavior, but instead appeared to have been a result of outdated information.




OIG’s investigation of the allegation that PennDOT employees received “gifts” – cookies – from the Contractor resulted in no finding of violations of policies or agreements applicable to such activities that were in force at the time the cookies were provided.


However, on January 20, 2015, Governor Tom Wolf signed Executive Order 2015-1, Executive Branch Employee Gift Ban (Gift Ban), which prohibits all employees in executive agencies under the jurisdiction of the Governor from accepting any “gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, hospitality, loan or any other thing of monetary value, including in-kind gifts,” from entities in relationships with the Commonwealth, including the Contractor.  The Gift Ban supersedes former Commonwealth and PennDOT policies, and provisions of agreements, that are inconsistent with the Gift Ban.  OIG reminded PennDOT of the change in policies and recommended PennDOT update its written policies and the agreement with the Contractor and other similar entities, and provide training to employees on the new Gift Ban.


            OIG’s investigation also found the documents PennDOT employees used to refer PennDOT customers to entities for vehicle registration and related services were not accurate.  OIG recommended that PennDOT review all similar documents and online postings and create user-friendly, updated versions.



            Based on its findings, OIG recommend



·         PennDOT should review and update its written policies and the agreements with the Contractor and other similar entities to be consistent with Executive Order 2015-1, Executive Branch Employee Gift



·         PennDOT should provide training to employees on Executive Order 2015-1, Executive Branch Employee Gif

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·         PennDOT should review all documents and online postings used to refer PennDOT customers to entities for vehicle registration and related services, and create user-friendly, updated versions.


Department/Agency Response


PennDOT expressed it supports training and education of PennDOT employees and business partners on the provisions of Executive Order 2015-01. PennDOT delivered multiple training communications to PennDOT employees on Executive Order 2015-01, and the department notified employees that PennDOT’s Gifts and Favors policy was rescinded in light of the issuance of the Executive Order.  Additionally, PennDOT will issue notifications to business partners about Executive Order 2015-01 and include emphasis on the new requirements in agent training courses. Finally, PennDOT noted its current contracts require compliance with Contractor Integrity Provisions, which would include the requirement to observe all applicable directives relating to PennDOT employees. The department’s contracts will also be reviewed to identify potential additional modifications to ensure alignment with Executive Order 2015-01.


PennDOT also informed OIG that its list of business partners changes regularly. The department already instructed Driver License Centers to discontinue providing lists to customers and, instead, the Centers now refer customers to the internet, which allows customers to identify and select PennDOT business partners independently.