- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2014

A federal audit is questioning whether the authority overseeing one of the largest public works projects in the D.C. region is properly managing federal funding it received for the $6 billion Dulles rail project.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which has received $975 million in funds for the project from the Federal Transit Administration, “lacks adequate controls to ensure that expenses claimed for funding” on the project are eligible for reimbursement, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general.

The audit report highlights $119,000 in grants that MWAA received for expenditures that are ineligible for federal reimbursement — such as $16,000 used as payments to lobbyists. MWAA also lacked sufficient documentation to support expenses reimbursed with $36 million in grants, the report states.

The authority, which oversees Dulles and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, is overseeing the plan to extend rail service roughly 23 miles from Reston to Dulles and eastern Loudoun County.

This is not the first time that the authority board has received such criticism. The inspector general’s report, released Friday, comes after a scathing 2012 report that highlighted the lavish spending habits of some MWAA board members and concluded that the authority was rife with mismanagement. The report from 2012 prompted the MWAA board to adopt new travel rules for its board of directors and staff and to halt no-bid contracts.

This latest report was a spinoff from the findings of the previous investigation.

“Given that $289 million in federal grant funds remain available for disbursement, improvements to MWAA’s financial management controls are critical for effective management of the federal investment in the Dulles rail project,” the 20-page report concludes.

The authority declined to make anyone available for comment on Friday but issued a statement saying that MWAA has located documentation for all expenses reimbursed with grant money and is undertaking a complete review of its grant documentation.

“We now have readily available documentation for the expenses that have been questioned by the IG, and we look forward to sharing this documentation with the FTA. We are confident we can account for all expenses in question,” MWAA officials said in the statement.

The statement continues, “Controls have already been established to ensure that future draws on the FTA grant are reviewed by the Internal Controls and Compliance Division to confirm that all supporting documentation for eligible expenses is maintained in a centralized documentation repository.”