The Port Authority of Allegheny County is in a “significantly better place” today than it was in the last audit, according to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
The most recent audit covers the period of July 1, 2007 through Dec. 31, 2012. The last audit was completed in 2007 by former Auditor General Jack Wagner. At that time, there were serious concerns with unsustainable pension and healthcare costs.
DePasquale said now, the picture has improved.
“They have a significantly more stable long-term future on health care and pension costs because there has been cooperation between management and labor,” he said.
Still, the auditor general’s audit did find several areas of concern. Among them, an attempt to cut costs in 2009 on a paving and storm water project resulted in the project costing $520,000 over the initial $841,000 contract because the work had to be redone.
It also found that the Port Authority failed to document that it conducted lobbying and debarment and suspension reviews of contractors and subcontractors as required for projects using federal funds.
“If that is not remedied going forward, the Port Authority risks, potentially, the federal government withholding future funding,” DePasquale said.
Another issue relates to relocation expenses paid to an employee in 2009. The expenses exceeded $28,000 for a move from Massachusetts and included $15,000 for five months of corporate housing and $4,200 for a rental car. The employee, who is no longer with the Port Authority, also double billed the agency $4,300 in relocation costs, which was repaid. DePasquale said these and other issues can be classified as serious, even though the amounts were small percentages of the Port Authority’s roughly $300 million budget.
“The cleaner they are on the funding cycle, the more they’re able to put where it needs to be, which is holding fares down and improving routes and improving service,” he said, “so anything they spent over that is money that is not going to where it needs to be.”
The auditor general included recommendations for the Port Authority going forward such as following proper procedures to check potential contractors are not barred or suspended from doing business on projects using federal funds and ensure that contractors comply with lobbying bans and enforcing its own relocation policy and justifying any reimbursements that exceed policy limits.
The Port Authority issued the following statement on the audit:
“Port Authority appreciates the State Auditor General’s audit of the four-year period prior to 2012, which identifies some general concerns and also significant improvements that have benefitted the public transportation system. The authority has, and continues, to seek out ways to improve how we conduct business and provide service.”