Auditor cites MoDOT for excessive spending

3 years 6 months 2 weeks ago Thursday, April 02 2015 Apr 2, 2015 Thursday, April 02, 2015 8:41:00 AM CDT April 02, 2015 in News
By: Genevieve Reaume, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - An audit on the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) says your money is being spent for the wrong reasons.

The audit says MoDOT is spending too much money on unnecessary aspects of their company including how they reimburse their employees, how often they use their vehicles and how they deal with settlements.  The audit looked at six areas and gave them a 'fair' rating. That's the second to lowest rating, which means the entity needs to improve in several areas, there needs to be immediate attention to one or more areas and the possibility that some recommendations have not been implemented.

 

 

The audit looked over the following six areas:

  • Restricted Funds
  • Personnel Payments
  • Sunshine Law
  • Property Damage
  • Vehicle Usage 
  • State Flight Operations 

The audit states MoDOT violated the Missouri Constitution under the area of restricted funds by using money from inappropriate funds for other tasks.The audit says the Constitution, "limits the use of State Road Fund monies to activities related to construction and maintenance of the highway system."

According to the audit, MoDOT used money from this fund for settlements, to pay employees on administrative leave, and for helping one employee offset the loss of a sale on his or her house when he or she had to move offices. The audit says this totals $7,148,195 of restricted money being  used in ways not in accordance with the State Road Fund disbursements.

MoDOT disagreed, citing another section which said, "It is the MoDOT's responsibility for the negotiation, compromise and payment of claims against the MoDOT."

The next area, personnel payments, criticized MoDOT for paying employees excessive amounts.

"The MoDOT paid benefits to, or on behalf of, employees that were excessive and provided little or no value to the MoDOT or the road and bridge system," the audit states.

The audit criticizes MoDOT for not having a proper plan for employees who go on administrative leave. In 2011, the Highways and Transportation Commission (the commission) approved a plan that would eliminate 1,200 staff positions. The criticism in the audit comes from the fact that these employees had to be terminated, but there wasn't a specific plan on how to pay them once on administrative leave.

The audit states, "The MoDOT has not established a policy regarding the use of administrative leave, other than its limited use in the employee reward program. In additions, the extensive use of administrative leave in this instance appears unnecessary and provided no benefit to the MoDOT or to the road and bridge system."

MoDOT defended keeping more employees than the original plan entailed because of the weather. "The hiring freeze had resulted in significant under-staffing in maintenance and we needed additional personnel on board and ready to fight the coming weather."

MoDOT responded by saying, "the paid administrative leave was limited to an extraordinary circumstance where leave with pay was warranted."

MoDOT was also criticized for paying an employee $91,168 in relocation assistance.

In the next point, MoDOT was cited for violating the Sunshine Law because they didn't provide the final resolution of an employee discrimination lawsuit. MoDOT said they didn't violate the law because they make the settlements from closed meeting available if requested, but the audit found this defense useless.

Deputy State Auditor Harry Otto said he doesn't think MoDOT is being transparent enough, and it is their job to inform the public of a settlement, not the public's job to ask.

MoDOT was also under fire for the efforts to locate persons who caused damaged state vehicles and other property. MoDOT spent $6,277,930 because they never found out who caused the damage.

The audit states an additional $2,168,518 was written off because is was defined as noncollectable.

On this point, MoDOT didn't disagree. MoDOT said they are "reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing property damage collection."

The last two audit points dealt with vehicle usage and state flight operations. MoDOT was criticized for having too many underutilized cars and chartering unnecessary flights.

"During the 2 years ended June 30, 2013, MoDOT spent approximately $259,000 flying governor-appointed commission members to commission meetings held across the state." The audit says members of other similar state boards typically drive and receive mileage reimbursement.

The audit estimates MoDOT could have saved $211,000 by driving.

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