Eleven private bus firms that provided school bus transportation for handicapped students during the 1989-1990 school year overbilled the city by a total of $227,144, according to a city audit report.
The report says that the bus companies took advantage of oversights by the city Department of Education's Transportation Services Division to routinely bill the city for mileage not covered by their buses and time not spent on their routes.
"Since the inception of this contract, transportation services has not performed adequate reconciliations of [routes on file] to contractors' invoices," the audit report says.
Allan L. Reynolds, the city auditor, said yesterday that during the upcoming school year the city hopes to recover the money that was overpaid by withholding payments to the companies accused of overbilling.
He added that John H. Branch Jr., head of transportation services for the school system, recently met with officials from the 11 bus companies and laid out the city's plans for recouping its money.
Reynolds said the audit will not be referred to the state's attorney's office and that the companies will be allowed to retain their city contracts.
But, some companies may be disqualified from seeking future city contracts if the apparent abuses continue, Reynolds added.
During the 1989-1990 school year, 26 firms provided bus service to handicapped students in the city schools at a cost to taxpayers of $12.9 million. The firms each have five-year contracts with the city.
Under the terms of the agreements, the bus companies are supposed to take students to and from school and bill the city for time it takes to complete each route and the actual miles traveled.
The rates for both time and mileage vary from company to company and are determined by competitive bids, the audit report says.
But, the city audit found, some companies routinely billed the city for mileage apparently not traveled by their buses. Also, they billed for more time than was required to complete their routes, the audit found.
Reynolds said that education officials are going to review the other two years already completed under the contract to ensure that similar overpayments didn't occur during that time.
Also, the audit report urges the education department to monitor more closely the school bus contracts and to refuse to pay bills from firms that have not updated information about their routes.
The audit report accuses City Wide Bus Co. of being the biggest offender by collecting overpayments totaling $118,530 in 1989-1990. Reynolds and the city purchasing agent said City Wide makes about $4 million a year in school bus contracts with the city.
The audit report also accuses these 10 firms of overcharging the city by the following amounts:
* Choung-Kim Bus Service, $27,759.
* Gladney Transportation, $25,948.
* Johnson Transportation, $18,331.
* Boykin Transportation, $7,730.
* S&S; Transportation, $6,530.
* Douglas Transportation, $6,375.
* Franklin Bus Service, $5,874.
* Harold Transportation, $4,910.
* D&G; Transportation, $2,927.
* EZ Transportation, $2,590.