Transportation Nation

Citi Bike's 'Shoddy' Management Left Riders In the Lurch: Audit

Friday, December 12, 2014

A new audit confirms what most New York City bike share users have already experienced: the system suffered from bad management. But officials say better days are ahead.
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New York City Comptroller Begins Audit of Four Charter Networks

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The office of the city comptroller is looking at the internal operations of four charter school groups, including the Success network, the city's largest. 
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Audit Finds Irregularities in Special Education Billing

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A report by the city comptroller's office shows that some consultants, hired by the Education Department to provide special education services to students, billed the city for services provided in the middle of the night or for 15-hour days. The report's findings of possible fraud have been turned over to the city's Special Commissioner of Investigation.

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Audit Finds Faulty Expenses at Two Schools

Monday, August 13, 2012

An audit by the state comptroller chastises James Madison High School and Herbert Lehman High School for sloppy accounting. Tweed officials say most of the expenses were appropriate but they are working with the schools on improved accounting practices.

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Transportation Nation

Former Governor David Paterson: Port Authority Problems No Secret

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Construction at the WTC site (photo: Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- Bob Hennelly, WNYC) Last week’s audit calling the Port Authority dysfunctional and running up billions of dollars in cost over-runs made eye-catching headlines.

The audit called the bi-state authority a "dysfunctional organization suffering from a lack of consistent leadership." That void, the report concluded, manifested itself in "insufficient cost controls" and "a lack of transparent and effective oversight" when it came to managing the World Trade Center's site's re-development.

But to long-time observers of the Port Authority and many of those involved, it was more like a Captain Reynault moment in Casablanca.

They were hardly shocked to find gambling in this establishment.

Instead, the latest 50-page report from Navigant is just one more critical audit and fact-finding volume in a library generated over decades by state comptrollers by former and current state lawmakers.

This particular audit was commissioned by Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, who found themselves in political hot water after backing a toll-hike to pay for rising costs at the bi-state authority. Both men had been elected on platforms that pledged to make government, even independent authorities like the Port Authority, more accountable.

But former Governor David Paterson says the audits findings were hardly a secret to those close to the World Trade Center project.

“The truth has to be told about this," Paterson says. After September 11th there was tremendous political tumult in both states. Sex scandals toppled a Governor in each state. The instability at the top had repercussions.

"Five governors of New Jersey, four governors of New York, changes to the Chair of the Port Authority and the executive director," recalls Paterson. "Every stakeholder, every real estate person within 150 miles wanted to be involved. What started out as a demonstration of vigilance and response to the terrorists turned into a real estate boondoggle."

Paterson says then-Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward, in an attempt to get the 911 Memorial completed by the psychologically important tenth anniversary, did not sugarcoat the site's overall status.

"In the memorandum written to me by Chris Ward he says there are likely to be cost overruns and delays. And there were," says Paterson.

“While significant progress has been made, that memo said, the schedule and cost estimates of the rebuilding effort that have been communicated to the public are not realistic. In fact, as other reports by the FTA and LMCCC/LMDC have already suggested, the schedule and cost for each of the public projects on the site face significant delays and cost overruns,” the memo said.

"And the whole issue that there could be toll hikes -- all that was discussed before the project was even built," says Paterson. "When we started putting this together we knew that the costs that were assessed were way below what the actual price to build those structures would be."

There was something else driving up costs, the former Governor said. “Every dime that was spent to rebuild the World Trade Center was assessed in the Port Authority Board room as a New York contract for which the New Jersey members wanted equal value. I am not blaming them but it becomes a cesspool driving costs up."

Paterson says the Federal government should have shouldered the entire multibillion dollar burden of re-building the complex not the Port Authority.

"They did not attack the Port Authority on September 11th nor did they attack the states of New York and New Jersey. They attacked America."

Check back soon for Part 2 of this the Port Authoiry, once a national model, found itself adrift in a sea of red ink.

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Audit Finds Limited Use of City's Data System

Monday, January 23, 2012

Many New York City teachers and principals are not using the city's $80 million student information database, according to an audit by the city comptroller, John C. Liu, released on Monday. Many teachers have not even logged into the ARIS system, the audit shows.

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Audit Questions Use of Money for Preschools

Friday, October 14, 2011

New York City is failing to take advantage of all of the money allocated by the state for prekindergarten programs, according to an audit by City Comptroller John C. Liu.

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Audit: Is Data Faulty that Determines School Space Needs?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An audit by Comptroller John C. Liu found mistakes in the city's so-called Blue Book, which is used to help calculate school and classroom space needs -- like classrooms measured at half their actual size and rooms used as classrooms that were not counted as such. In some cases, the mistakes led to an overestimation of a school’s occupancy, while in others, they made schools appear less crowded than they are. The Department of Education said the errors are not significant.

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Transportation Nation

GAO Criticizes D.C. Metro Board For Micromanagement

Thursday, June 30, 2011

(photo by Kate Hinds)

(Washington D.C. - WAMU) The board of directors that governs Metro, the D.C. area's public transit agency, is too involved in day-to-day decisions and doesn't have proper oversight, according to a Government Accountability Office report released today.

The GAO investigated Metro's governance structure after a string of safety and reliability problems, including a rush-hour train collision two years ago that killed nine people and injured dozens more.

It found that, unlike many corporate and public sector boards, Metro's board was heavily involved in the minor details of the transit agency. Board members made decisions about "hiring and firing employees," approval of "minor personnel policy," and detailed decisions such as "station tiles, bicycle facilities and transit car seat colors."

This micromanagement, the GAO report states, is a result of inadequately defined roles and responsibilities for the board.

The GAO also found that, unlike most other big city transit agencies, Metro's Inspector General doesn't have the authority to investigate board members for allegations of wrongdoing.

In the aftermath of the 2009 crash, nearly every aspect of Metro came under intense scrutiny, and the board of directors was no exception. The National Transportation Safety Board criticized it for contributing to a deficient safety culture. And several regional leaders - including Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray - are currently in talks to make radical changes to the board's structure.

Metro's board is trying to preempt that, and it's currently in the process of changing its own bylaws. “This new board is hard at work meeting multiple parallel demands, including improving safety and system state-of-good-repair to better serve our customers,” said current chairman Catherine Hudgins. It will "continue to embrace change and advance many governance improvements that substantially strengthen our role as a regional policy and oversight organization."

To read the full GAO report, click here.

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Transportation Nation

Where Did I Put That $1.5 Billion? Oh! There It Is...

Monday, September 27, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) It may sound hard to believe, but the state of Virginia just found $1.5 billion in transportation funding it didn't know it had.

The money appeared after an audit of Virginia's Department of Transportation (VDOT) initiated by Governor Bob McDonnell (R). The audit found what McDonnell described as a windfall of unused and underutilized cash.

Among its findings:

*Amid a severe recession - in which the state laid off more than 1,000 VDOT employees, and in which the state controversially closed dozens of highway rest stops because it couldn't find $9 million to keep them open - VDOT was sitting on a cash reserve fund totaling $200 million. McDonnell proposes drawing down this reserve fund by more than half.

*VDOT has been regularly allocating funds to inactive local construction projects. These projects were only partially funded so they weren't under construction, but the funding they did have sat idle.

*After the recession began, VDOT became very hesitant to commit funds to new projects. For example, in fiscal 2009, almost $1.6 billion was available to VDOT for maintenance projects. But it only spent three quarters of that, carrying the rest over to the following fiscal year.

McDonnell called these fiscal practices "unacceptable," and blamed his predecessor, Tim Kaine, currently the head of the Democratic National Committee.

But Democrats are taking what could be a damning indictment and trying to turn it into a badge of honor. Kaine said in a statement that the audit shows his "tight-fisted" polices helped VDOT weather the financial crisis. And State Senator Dave Marsden, a Democrat from Northern Virginia, questioned why McDonnell would want to reduce VDOT's reserve fund when that money gets used for emergencies like blizzards, hurricanes, etc.

So, to recap: McDonnell, a Republican, wants to spend money faster and is criticizing Democrats for being too fiscally timid. Democrats, meanwhile, are criticizing McDonnell for being a spendthrift. Got it?

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