Despite efforts taken by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) in recent months to clean up its act, the authority must implement additional policies to fully address management weaknesses, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation-conducted audit released Thursday.
The much-awaited final report concluded the authority’s “contracting policies and practices are insufficient to ensure compliance with the Airports Act and the lease agreement between the DOT and MWAA.”
The 50-page audit, signed off by Calvin L. Scovel III, inspector general for the DOT, took issue with ineffective contract management and oversight, and a lack of adequate procurement integrity policies to ensure impartiality when awarding and administering contracts. Moreover, the account states MWAA’s human resources practices lack oversight and accountability, resulting in employees being hired and paid without job descriptions, competition, pay setting reviews, or completed background checks.
“MWAA’s code of ethics for its employees and its related policies and procedures have lacked the rigor needed to ensure credibility and the integrity of management and employee decisions. For example, some MWAA employees regularly accepted inappropriate, high-dollar gifts from an MWAA contractor,” the report notes.
The airports authority oversees Dulles International and Reagan National airports and the Dulles Toll Road, and is charged with overseeing the $5.5 billion Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, which will extend Metro’s Silver Lines to the Dulles airport and into Loudoun County. Along with Loudoun and Fairfax counties and the commonwealth of Virginia, MWAA is funding partner in Dulles rail.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who has pushed for MWAA reform, quickly released a statement on the report, saying the concerns he’s expressed over the past two years are, unfortunately, “validated” by the findings.
“The final report title says it all: ‘MWAA’s weak policies and procedures have lead to questionable procurement practices, management and a lack of overall accountability,’” McDonnell states.
For those following the authority in recent months, the report comes as no surprise. An interim draft of the report, released in May, gave the public a glimpse of what to expect from the completed version.
A summary of the interim report indicated “that MWAA’s accountability to Congress, stakeholders, and the public as well as its compliance with the Act has been limited by weaknesses in its internal policies and oversight of these policies.
“In particular, MWAA’s policies and procedures related to financial disclosures, travel, and transparency are insufficient to ensure fiduciary and ethical responsibility in the Board’s expenses and activities. MWAA’s contracting policies and practices are similarly insufficient to ensure compliance with the Act’s provisions and its internal procurement procedures, resulting in contracts that are not subject to full and open competition and may not represent best value,” states the interim report.
In September, MWAA adopted a new travel policy for board members and continued constructing a new ethics policy. Last month, McDonnell announced the appointment of five new Virginia members to the board. Three have been seated, and the remaining two will join the board in November.
MWAA officials are holding a news conference Thursday afternoon at Reagan National Airport to address the report.
The report concludes that as an “independent public body subject to few federal and state laws, MWAA must rely on the strength of its policies and processes to ensure credibility in its management of two of the nation’s largest airports and a multibillion-dollar public transit construction project.”