Verizon currently has a contract to outfit thousands of service stations with vehicle inspection computers.
The state bought a lot more than was needed, but Verizon has been storing them, not the DMV. So no one really knows the true number and location.
"We're not sure yet and that's because of the process of installing the computers, there were some that were stored," DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson said. "There were some that were inoperative when installed. And they were sent to repair stations."
DMV officials thought they would need 3,000 computers for service stations to modernize their vehicle inspection process. Instead, Verizon said the state needed only 1,800.
Verizon said the computers are not gone, just unaccounted for at the moment.
The company also stressed that the state paid for 3,000 computers and will get 3,000 computers. Each is valued at about $1,700.
"Obviously we have an inventory problem," Robertson said. "And it's necessary that we find out what that problem is."
Robertson referred the audit to the SBI for a possible criminal investigation shortly after he took office in March.
"Mr. Robertson is to be commended," former FBI Agent Frank Perry said. "It's a case here that he exposes as opposed to investigative reporting exposing it first."
The missing computers are another embarrassment for the DMV which has had a series of troubles.
But Robertson said he wants to lead the 1,600 employee agency like a business, which Governor Bev Perdue wants all to see.
"She demanded transparency," Robertson said. "She wants the state's business done in the open and on the table. And that's what I told her I would do. "
The SBI is currently handling the case.