NCDOT not providing lawmakers with proper documentation on spending, audit says

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – There’s more trouble for a North Carolina state agency that has already been the target of several scathing audits.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is being accused of not providing lawmakers with the information they need to figure out how much the state will have to pay back money borrowed to build and fix our highways.

When it comes to handling tax dollars, state lawmakers need to know exactly how much NCDOT is spending to maintain roads and how much of that money will be reimbursed by the federal government.

However, state Auditor Beth Wood said that is not happening.

The state spends $6 billion a year on roads.

That figure includes the construction of new highways, paving, repair, even things like mowing the grass.

Of that $6 billion, the federal government reimburses $1.2 billion in funds that are used to build new roads.

But, before the feds reimburse that highway money, the state must first pay for all that work on its own.

A lot of those payments involve something called a Garvee bond, which can take up to 15 years to pay back.

A Garvee bond enables a state to spread the cost of highway construction over many years.

Lawmakers need to know, how much NCDOT is spending, and how much the state is on the hook for, if those federal funds are reduced or go away.

Reduced federal reimbursement means paying back that debt now comes out of our pockets. So, a year and a half ago, lawmakers said we want that information, so we know what our long-term financial obligations are.

“The general assembly implemented a law that said we want a report on this thing called ‘advance construction,'” said Wood.

But, Wood’s performance audit says the report NCDOT created for lawmakers about advance construction costs is missing key financial repayment information.

Wood said the NCDOT had several explanations for producing an incomplete report.

“Part of it was they said they couldn’t get the data,” she said. “The other part of it was they said the data (omitted) wasn’t important.”

Considering NCDOT’s online accounting system, Wood said she doesn’t buy the agency’s excuse.

“They have one of the most sophisticated IT systems in the state,” she said.

“There is somebody who can get this data out, they just need to hire them or find them,” said Wood. “To just say we can’t get the data out, so we won’t include it, is unacceptable.”

In response to the audit, NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott told CBS 17 the agency “agrees with the findings and has implemented corrective actions.”

Wood said the next step is up to the General Assembly because the law says its oversight committee needs a report with certain information.

Wood said it’s now up to the lawmakers to decide how to deal with NCDOT’s failure to provide it with the information it needs.

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