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IG Report Questions MWAA Policies

In statement, regional panel welcomes report, while letter to LaHood criticizes interference.

A long-awaited report about the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s Inspector General calls for actions beyond what the regional panel has already undertaken.

MWAA, responsible for constructing Metro’ Silver Line project from Falls Church to Ashburn, came under fire for lax oversight of its members. The IG report also raises questions about whether the organization’s policies permit favoritism in awarding contracts and nepotism in awarding jobs.

For the full report, see the PDF attached to this article.

After an interim report from the IG, MWAA approved a new travel policy and code of ethics, revised bylaws for board members and its Freedom of Information Policy and terminated contracts with former board members. But the IG’s final report finds those measures inadequate.

“While these are the types of actions needed to ensure fiduciary and ethical responsibility, further actions remain to fully address the management weaknesses we identified during our audit,” a summary of the report states.

A response to the report from MWAA on Thursday appears to show the organization is prepared to accept the criticism and work with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to make improvements.

“While the criticisms and issues raised have been unpleasant to hear – and will require hard work to address – we appreciate their interest and guidance, and we know they share our goal of making the Airports Authority a better organization,” MWAA said in a press release.

But the statement falls in stark contract with a letter sent one month earlier by MWAA board member Robert Clarke Brown to LaHood (see attached PDF), in which he charged the secretary with overstepping his bounds and requests the government shift its focus from investigating MWAA to helping fund the Silver Line, which currently relies primarily on tolls along the Dulles Toll Road. The tolls are expected to rise significantly if an additional infusion of money cannot be found. In fact, Brown praises the work of MWAA, disregarding the issues raised by the IG report.

“The Metropolitan Washing Airports Authority is a triumph of good transportation policy, a vivid demonstration of what a regional approach can accomplish in a large metropolitan area,” Brown wrote. “Not only have your repeated encroachments on MWAA’s independence been of questionable lawfulness, they have also gone far beyond the traditional role of U.S. DOT in local project development and execution.”

Brown went on to add that “most members” of the MWAA board “believed the Inspector General was acting far beyond the scope of his legal authority.”

In Brown’s letter, sent on MWAA letterhead, he acknowledges that the criticisms of the organization “have not been without merit,” but “I urge you now to turn your efforts on behalf of the Silver Line away from local politics and yesterday’s governance problems, and toward the real challenge the project still faces.”

Those problems were identified as securing state and federal funding for the project. The federal government contributed $900 million to the project’s first phase, about one-third of the cost. No federal money has been allocated for phase two, estimated to cost an additional $2.7 billion.

The procurement process for phase two has begun, while passengers are expected to begin board trains from phase one stations next year.

Bob Bruhns November 07, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Wolf Statement On DOT IG Report On MWAA Congressman Wolf's Website, November 01, 2012 http://wolf.house.gov/press-releases/wolf-statement-on-dot-ig-report-on-mwaa/
Bob Bruhns November 08, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Stix, the 3.1 billion dollar cost of the Design-Build contract, plus financing, was mentioned in the second sentence of the report. And the Phase II estimate is mentioned too. Perhaps you are not aware of MWAA's track record with regard to costs. MWAA will probably not let Phase II go too far above the incredibly bloated cost estimate numbers that they have handed us - but that's not saying much, because they handed us cost figures that are two times what they should be. In case you haven't noticed, MWAA isn't particularly good at lowering costs. That's why the US DOT stepped in, back in 2011. MWAA, the organization that seems to like paying 130% to 330% of what they should spend, happily accepted cost estimates that are simply unjustified, and passed them along to us. Well, except that they seemed to be looking for any way they could think of, to make the numbers even higher. In fact, between July 2011 and March 2012, they managed to hyperinflate the price of the Rt 28 rail station by 22%, and the cost of the parking garages by 29%. That's a big jump, for less than a year of hyperinflation. Why is it that the items that the Counties have to pay skyrocketed on March 6, 2012, while the rest of the project held about steady? And why didn't the so-called news media happen to mention that?
Just the Facts December 10, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Frank Wolf was very vocal about Martire's plane ticket but has been silent on the 180k job for a no show job for a former Board member. He also held that lame press conference with Senator Allen and Barbara Comstock complaining about MWAA hiring Mame Reiley while wearing George Allen for Senate stickers. Was this a press inference about MWAA or a political event for Allen? Either way it looked like they made the deal political. Now that the elections are over Wolf and McDonnell have been silent. It just shows most of this has been political theatre. These politicians have no interest in cleaning up MWAA? They just want to use them to beat up on. Fire the three clowns and I will think MWAA has a hance to survive. Potter, Davis and Curto need to resign.
Rob Whitfield December 10, 2012 at 10:56 AM
At the November 16 hearing by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the USDOT Inspector General's audit of MWAA. nobody involved escaped without blame for shortcomings and misconduct. The USDOT IG Calvin Scovel was very professional in his presentation. He did not comment on the FBI's investigation of MWAA. At the Governor's Transportation Conference in Tysons last week, nobody offered substantive comment on the as yet unresolved feasibility and financial problems for Dulles Rail Phase 2. My view is that it is time for the USDOT IG Scovel to tackle the many as yet unreported problems at the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority. WMATA has yet to admit publicly that upgrading traction power stations in Arlington and DC plus other improvements needed to downtown elevators and escalators to allow more eight car trains to operate there will cost well over $1 billion. The Dulles Airport maintenance yard has been sized and designed for all Series 7000 rail cars - not just those to be used by Dulles Rail. WMATA is trying to force Virginia taxpayers to pay all of its costs instead of most being paid by Metrorail riders. A total absence of leadership exists by both Republicans and Democrats. Why has no elected official or transportation agency leader demanded independent forecasts of Metrorail ridership, revenues and cost projections for the Silver Line? The project is the biggest financial boondoggle in Virginia history.
Bob Bruhns December 11, 2012 at 05:30 PM
It's just a bunch of crooks fighting over stolen money. Reports that expose their lies are not going to help them grab the money and run, so they don't demand them. The Dulles Rail project, also known as the Silver Line, costs two times what it should - we're talking about an unnecessary extra $2.5 to $3 Billion dollars of economic drain that is causing a major financial crisis for this entire region. And then there are the finance charges for the money that we need to borrow, to pay the bloated costs of this project. And let's not forget the real and needed projects that must make do on less money, because so much is being devoured by this ripoff. When are people going to wake up?

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