Audit: Baltimore transportation department doesn't keep records, puts bad info in city's budget

Stokes: Transportation officials "make up numbers. They have no clue how many pot holes they filled."

Baltimore's Department of Transportation does not keep sufficient records to track how well workers are doing their jobs, and submits erroneous information annually in the city's budget, a new audit has found.

The audit of the agency's performance is the first completed under Baltimore's new auditing law, which requires 13 city departments to undergo financial and performance audits at least once every four years. The document will be submitted to the Board of Estimates Wednesday.

Auditors from Hamilton Enterprises LLC attempted to track how well transportation officials had paved streets, managed traffic, inspected bridges and roadway lights, and avoided damage while impounding vehicles.

But the agency "provided no evidence of policies, procedures, internal controls, or accountability" for its workers' performance in most categories, and CitiStat, Baltimore's accountability office, "did not track any data" for other measures, the auditors wrote.

"The lack of oversight, accountability and internal controls ... undermines the intent of the performance measurement process as a whole," the auditors wrote.

In response, city finance officials said they are creating a new committee to address the findings of this audit and others that will soon be released.

Howard Libit, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said record-keeping will improve as more audits are done.

"It’s the first time many of the agencies have had performance audits in decades," he said. "The auditors didn’t say they didn’t do the work. It’s just that the records aren’t kept are the level that an outside auditing firm wants."

The next audit to be completed will likely be of the finance department. Comptroller Joan Pratt, who oversees city auditors, said that review should be released either this week or next.

"Most of the audits will be indicative of a lack of supporting documentation and insufficient, incomplete and inaccurate reporting," she said. "I don't believe these audits will reveal there is any fraud, waste and abuse that is rampant in city agencies."

She said the process is "revealing how important it is to have the quadrennial audits or even annual audits of city agencies, but we need sufficient funding." Pratt has said in the past that Rawlings-Blake is not providing robust enough funding for city auditors.

City Councilman Carl Stokes, who authorized the legislation requiring the audits, said the first review finished shows that city officials have essentially been submitting "lies" to the council during the budget process.

"They didn't have any documentation," Stokes said. "That's not a guesstimate. That's a lie. They make up numbers. They have no clue how many pot holes they filled."

Even so, Stokes said, he was glad the audits are finally being completed.

"What I'm encouraged by is we're actually doing audits for the first time in 30 years," he said. "Now we will have a baseline."

Pratt's Department of Audits typically conducts more than 10 audits per year. While an audit is performed each year of the city's overall budget, more exhaustive audits of individual agencies have been far rarer.

Baltimore council members, frustrated that some departments hadn't undergone agency-wide performance and financial audits in decades, took the issue to the voters in 2012. Voters approved a charter amendment requiring that 13 key agencies be audited every four years. Under the charter amendment, all of the audits must be completed by the end of the mayor's term in December 2016.

Stokes said he does not fault the outside auditors for falling behind a timeline released by the city of when the work would likely be completed.

"Finance should not have kept saying, 'Here's the date.' It frustrates people even more," Stokes said. "It's unfair to the auditors. The auditors are not going to sign off if they have not finished their due-diligence."

He said he plans to hold a hearing on the status of the audits in January.

Lester Davis, a spokesman for City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, said city agencies need to do a better job of keeping records.

"It's completely unacceptable when agencies with multi-million dollar budgets have difficulty producing certain records related to an audit," he said. "It's a fixable problem and the Council President intends to speak with the agency director about procedures that will produce better results during future audits."

lbroadwater@baltsun.com
Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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