Audit uncovers lax oversight of state airport construction

Published On: May 15 2013 05:25:00 PM HST

The state is halfway through a 12-year $1.7 billion overhaul of our airports.

Now a scathing audit has uncovered poor state oversight of a contractor hired to manage the massive project.

 One glaring point-- $1 million  spent on a house kit now used as a construction field office in Maui.

“It seems extravagant to have this million dollar field office used once in a while for big meetings and only intermittently by other staff,” said legislative auditor Jan Yamane.

The audit found that the cost was 30 times the going rate for standard trailers.

The state hired Parsons Transportation Group to oversee the massive project in 2006, but the audit found that the state airports division relinquished control to the contractor, raising eyebrows over whether taxpayers’ money was being well spent.

"These are public funds. Are we getting the best value?" Yamane asked.

The audit also found a violation of the state procurement code. Parsons had a professional services contract, but went ahead and did a half a million dollars of construction work on offices on Ualena Street.

The renovation covered two floors of the building but the auditor says the company should have put the project out to bid.

But there's more.

It includes sketchy documentation to justify a long list of expenses.

Taxpayers paid for an architectural consultant to spend one to two weeks in Honolulu a month at a rate of $9,000.

That is in addition to travel and per diem ranging from $2,800-- to $3,600 a month.

 And there's money for a sub-consultant that included a monthly rental of a Waikiki condo at $2,600 over a 16-month period.

Taxpayers were also billed up to $5,000 a day for what's listed as team building sessions.

And the audit questioned $11,000  in travel for a "cultural consultant.'

"We should get our money’s worth and not overpay for some of these things," Yamane said.

There were even problems in areas where the airports division had direct oversight.

Because of poor planning, a Securitas security contract had to be extended three times and cost the public an additional $38 million.

"Maybe the first time it’s excusable, and the second time-- this is not so great. Maybe someone should have realized, this is the third extension," Yamane said.

And even after six  years of problems with electrical contractor, Ted's Wiring, the company still secured close to $8 million in additional work.

The state transportation department didn't dispute the audit findings but said with new leadership in place, it has changed a number of its practices.


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