HARRISBURG - Lax security led to the theft of materials used to produce Pennsylvania driver's licenses and identification cards, putting people at risk of fraud and identity theft, the state auditor general said yesterday.

But the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has taken effective steps to address the problem, Auditor General Jack Wagner said.

Contractors hired since 2000 to produce licenses and ID cards for PennDot were not properly monitored and trained, Wagner said. As a result, hundreds of cards and laminate overlays were stolen or unaccounted for, he said.

"In all frankness, we have a far greater comfort level now, in 2007, than going back several years ago," he said.

From 2003 to 2005, 1,500 blank cards and a roll of 100 holographic overlays were reported stolen, the auditor's report said. In addition, it said, there was evidence that a sleeve of 500 blank cards may have fallen through the accounting cracks and there was no record of whether multiple shipments of voided cards hàd been destroyed.

"We do take that security of our products and the security of customer information very seriously," PennDot spokeswoman Danielle Klinger said. "These weaknesses . . . were identified and we took certain corrective action to minimize the risk."

Klinger said there has been no evidence that the stolen or missing material has been used to make bogus licenses or identification.

In December 2006, about a year after the audit period concluded, thieves broke into a driver's license center in Wilkes-Barre and stole enough equipment to make hundreds of fraudulent licenses. That prompted PennDot to review the security at all 97 licensing centers and revise its procedures.

A second report released by Wagner yesterday concluded that PennDot failed to verify the qualifications and experience of the people hired to inspect bridge and road construction.

PennDot selects contractors based on their inspectors' experience and qualifications, but those companies often add new employees, and the department had not been checking to see if those workers were suitable, Wagner said.

Wagner said he was satisfied that changes PennDot has made to fix the problem are sufficient.

The audit had been designed to examine changes PennDot made after a retired department construction manager alleged in 2003 that the state was overpaying for inspectors and outside companies were showering a PennDOT district office with gifts and other perks.