The U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General’s office is once again taking aim at the management practices at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
In a report released last week, the inspector general’s office said that the authority’s poor financial management practices allowed MWAA to receive federal dollars for items that were not eligible for federal reimbursement, such as payments to lobbyists and expenses related to the second phase of the project.
The funds in question were part of the $975 million in Federal Transit Administration grants that MWAA received for the first phase of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.
“MWAA lacks adequate controls to ensure that expenses claimed for funding on the FTA grant for Phase 1 of the Dulles rail project are eligible for reimbursement,” the report states.
A prior inspector general’s report regarding the agency’s contracting practices and travel reimbursement policy led to a staff and board shakeup and significant policy changes at the authority, which operates Washington Dulles and Reagan National airports, as well as managing the rail project.
The inspector general projects that MWAA received about $139 million in FTA grant funds without sufficient documentation to support the payments and about $350,000 for transactions that were not eligible for reimbursement under the grants.
In a statement, MWAA officials said the information in the report is dated and the authority has already taken steps to improve its systems.
“Many of the findings included in this report, which covers a time period from 2009 to 2011, relate to issues identified earlier in a 2012 independent audit by KPMG which the Authority had requested, and efforts to address the issues have been underway since then,” the statement reads. “We have been working closely with the FTA in these efforts, which include moving from largely paper-based systems to a more modern record-keeping system.”
The report also criticizes MWAA for being unable to supply requested documentation in a timely fashion.
The inspector general’s office recommends that the FTA review MWAA’s financial management practices and seek reimbursement from the authority for the unsupported and unallowable costs identified in the report.
MWAA will continue to cooperate with the FTA and the inspector general’s office to supply all needed documentation, according to the statement. The authority’s Internal Controls and Compliance Division is conducting a review of all documentation for Phase 1 grants to ensure that all payments are supported and allowable.