The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) has made a good start in cleaning up its policies but has a long way to go. That’s the gist of a 51-page report issued today by the Inspector General of the U.S. Transportation Department.
“As a result of our audit work and increased public scrutiny, MWAA has taken action to improve its accountability, transparency, and governance, such as approving new travel and ethics policies for employees and its Board of Directors. However, further actions remain to fully address the management weaknesses we identified during our audit,” the Inspector General’s report said.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) who, with Rep. Tom Latham (R-Ia.), requested the report said MWAA needs to take the report seriously.
“The MWAA described in this report is not the MWAA created 25 years ago. Something has gone terribly wrong in recent years as the board that governs MWAA spiraled into dysfunction,” Wolf said. ”MWAA must immediately implement all the recommendations detailed in the IG’s report so it returns to the authority we once knew.”
The Inspector General outlined four areas that need action:
- MWAA’s contracting policies and practices “are insufficient to ensure compliance with the Airports Act and the lease agreement between DOT and MWAA,” the Inspector General found. ”We also found issues with ineffective contract management and oversight and a lack of adequate procurement integrity policies to ensure impartiality when awarding and administering contracts.”
- MWAA’s code of ethics for its employees and its related policies and procedures have “lacked the rigor needed to ensure credibility and the integrity of management and employee decisions. For example, some MWAA employees regularly accepted inappropriate, high-dollar gifts from an MWAA contractor,” the report found.
- MWAA’s human resources practices “lack oversight and accountability, resulting in employees being hired and compensated without job descriptions, competition, pay setting reviews, or completed background checks,” the IG said.
- More action needed. The report said that “while MWAA has taken positive steps to improve its Board of Directors’ accountability and transparency, significant attention will be required to ensure that new travel, ethics, and disclosure policies are implemented and enforced.”
The Inspector General’s office said it made 12 major recommendations “30 specific sub-recommendations” to improve MWAA’s policies and processes and said that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood expected a detailed response from MWAA within 30 days.
“Serious and troubling”
“The issues raised by the IG are serious and troubling,” Wolf said. ”The successful operation of Ronald Reagan and Washington Dulles airports and the Metrorail extension project requires an organization that is ethical, honest and beyond reproach. Public trust in MWAA is imperative as the airports are partly funded by taxpayer money, and the extension project partly by tolls on the Dulles Toll Road. MWAA must be a good public steward of taxpayer and toll-payer dollars.”
“Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s decision to appoint an accountability officer is a critical bridge until a permanent IG is established in law. Moreover, the board members who have recently been seated – and those appointed to serve in the near future – should carefully review the IG’s final report and see for themselves the types of issues that have plagued the authority in recent years,” Wolf said.