Grant Funds Improperly Spent in Washington’s Dulles Rail Project

January 27, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

dc-metro-474082-mAnyone who lives in the Washington, D.C. area knows what a bear it is to commute here. The traffic is horrible, and the subway option isn’t much better. Washington’s Metro system is constantly crowded and trains are inconsistent, yet Metro still continues to raise its fares. After reading a recent Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General audit on the mismanagement of federal funds awarded to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to build a new Metrorail line to Dulles Airport west of the city, let’s just say I’m even a bit more irate than I already was about our local transit system.

MWAA was awarded $975 million in federal funds in 2009 for Phase 1 of the Dulles Rail project. However, after reviewing a sizable sample of Dulles rail project transactions, the DOT OIG audit found about 36 percent of the transaction, valued at $139 million in federal grant funds, lacked sufficient documentation. Worse still, MWAA received about $350,000 in funds for unallowable costs, such as payments to lobbyists and advocacy organizations. OIG noted that these violations stemmed from MWAA’s lack of sound grant management controls. “For example, MWAA’s process for claiming grant funds does not adequately document costs claimed for reimbursement, as the Federal Transit Administration grant regulations require,” OIG said.

OIG went on to say that the unallowable and unsupported costs raise question about MWAA’s ability to adequately manage the federal funds invested in the Dulles rail project. It recommended that FTA conduct a financial management oversight review of MWAA, and recover payments from MWAA for unsupported and unallowable costs identified the audit.  It had even more recommendations for MWAA, including revising its policies, implementing an accounting system and developing a checklist for required supporting documentation.

Commuting around here is costly enough; this certainly doesn’t help the situation. One hopes that this audit will help to straighten up the books at WMAA. Up to this point, it appears WMAA has taken us for a ride — in more ways than one.

What is your reaction to this audit? Let us know.



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