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What we’ve got here is failure to communicate

I’m just speechless.

Poor internal communication and complicated procedures caused a $1.1 billion blunder that forced Texas transportation officials to pull back on construction projects earlier this year, according to an audit released Thursday.

Texas Department of Transportation officials actually discovered the accounting error six months earlier, the report said.

The accounting error occurred when bond proceeds were counted twice when the department developed the fiscal 2008 contract award schedule. As a result, $4.2 billion in planned projects was reduced to $3.1 billion.

This resulted in a reduction of $161 million worth of construction and maintenance in the Houston area and a $71.5 million deduction in the San Antonio region.

Auditors faulted department officials for failing to immediately communicate the error to the Texas Transportation Commission, lawmakers and the public.

“Although the department asserts it briefed all commission members individually, no briefing documents, specific dates, or calendars were provided to auditors to verify these briefings,” the report said.

Auditors recommended that TxDOT develop a formal process for reviewing money available for projects, keep commission members informed in open meetings, post updates on the agency’s Web site and alert legislators when funding in their areas change.

At this point, I think we’ve gone beyond a competency problem and have entered the realm of a cultural problem. TxDOT, as it is, is completely dysfunctional and needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. I don’t have any faith in the agency’s ability to fix itself. Texas Watchdog, the new kid on the blog block, has more.

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