The state Department of Transportation and Development failed to win federal approval for change orders on more than $1 million in projects, which could endanger future federal aid, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said Monday.
“This is the fifth consecutive year we have reported weaknesses in DOTD’s controls over change order approvals,” Purpera said in an audit.
The problem focused on 14 of 184 project change orders — 8 percent — that required approval of the Federal Highway Administration.
The review said five of the orders were incorrectly listed as not requiring federal approval.
Five others were required to get FHWA approval before their effective date.
“These exceptions were caused by errors in preparation and inadequate review of the change orders by project engineers, inadequate review by the DOTD employees approving change orders and by the insufficient review of project information entered into the project management system for accuracy,” according to the audit.
Federal dollars account for 72 percent of Louisiana’s highway program, up from 58 percent in 2010.
In a written response, DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas agreed with the report.
LeBas said that, of the 14 change orders cited, three did not get federal approval because of weather delays.
She said nine others were done before new monitoring steps were put in place. Two others were erroneously classified as not requiring federal approval.
LeBas also agreed with Purpera’s conclusion that DOTD failed to maintain accurate records on federal oversight for 12 of 638 change orders tested — 2 percent.
LeBas’ written response said DOTD has taken steps to correct those problems.
“This process has already been implemented,” she wrote.
Purpera’s review covered the financial year that ended on June 30.
The state faces a $12 billion backlog of road and bridge needs.
Any long-term solutions are believed to be off the table until at least 2016, when a new governor and Legislature take office.
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