Jan 05 2012
WSBTV 2 Atlanta (Georgia)
State auditors documenting billions of dollars in state and federal funds that flow through the Georgia Department of Transportation have found the agency has over $1 billion on hand and uncommitted.
Highway contractors say they are frustrated with the pace at which the DOT has moved projects from the drawing boards into the field and contractors say the holdup is also holding up lots of new jobs.
"The passion to get these dollars out the door has maybe not (been) what needs to be," said former state Sen. Chuck Clay, who is now a lobbyist for C.W. Matthews, Georgia’s largest highway construction firm.
An audit found the DOT, on June 30, had $1.2 billion in funds that was not committed to highway projects -- a 31 percent increase in a single year.
Interim Commissioner Keith Golden told Channel 2’s Richard Belcher on the phone the current situation is complicated by the fact that the federal government has delivered only a fraction of the highway money it promised this year. Some members of the construction industry are skeptical of the claim.
"Running a department efficiently doesn't matter if you're not building roads and you're not deploying it out there where it needs to be (which is) to build our infrastructure and put Georgians to work," Clay said.
How the DOT spends and accounts for billions of dollars in tax money has been the subject of bitter political debate in recent years. There was even a criminal investigation of a senior DOT official. No one was charged, but the money dispute is in some ways unresolved, because Georgia's constitution doesn't allow the DOT to go into debt for projects. The agency has to have cash on hand.
The state audit also included a long list of problems with financial controls, Belcher reported. Among those are four “material weaknesses” which raise red flags about the way an agency is being managed.