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Lawmakers react to ‘alarming’ MNLARS report showing inaccurate registration charges

House and Senate lawmakers expressed concern Wednesday in response to a new legislative auditor’s report that found the state’s troubled license and registration system has inaccurately charged some Minnesotans for vehicle registrations.

While most charges levied were correct, the Office of the Legislative Auditor report released Tuesday found that roughly 40 percent of license tab transactions were inaccurately charged using the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System, known as MNLARS.

[MORE View the report]

MNLARS has faced fierce criticism from lawmakers for its numerous technological glitches since its July 2017 debut. But the legislative auditor’s report found that MNLARS was not solely to blame for the incorrect charges. Inaccurate data and complex laws played a sizable role, the report found.

Accurate vehicle tab charges for certain vehicles depends largely on correct information about a vehicle’s base value. Judy Randall, a deputy legislative auditor, said “significant variability” was found in the base value data, resulting in inconsistent charges for customers.

“Regardless of the cause of the problem, we are most concerned that these inaccurate data currently remain in the system indefinitely,” the report read.

Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), co-chair of the MNLARS Steering Committee, called the report’s findings “alarming.”

“This is a real issue,” he said at a committee meeting Wednesday morning. “Citizens have a right to be treated fairly and this is not happening.”

In response to frustration among lawmakers, deputy registrar offices, auto dealers and customers, the OLA analyzed transactions conducted through MNLARS between July 24, 2017 and Feb. 28, 2018. The new system has already cost the state more than $90 million and, officials say, will require additional funding for continued fixes. Its flaws have led to problems like long waits for license plates and tabs, and caused financial hardship for some deputy registrars around the state.

The report showed that among a sample of 300 transactions that MNLARS handled, customers were estimated to have been undercharged by more than $2.7 million and overcharged by roughly $144,000.

Joanna Clyborne, director of the Minnesota IT Services, or MN.IT, stressed that many of the inaccurate charges boil down to a need for “greater clarity and alignment” between state statute and the automotive industry — not, she said, system errors within MNLARS.  

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