Caltrans Audit Identifies Waste, Neglect of Duty

     (CN) – The California auditor said his study of the state transportation department uncovered fiscal waste, neglect of duty and falsification of data, among other problems.
     One finding of Elaine Howle’s 32-page report is that two technicians for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) submitted hundreds of overtime hours that they did not work in 2008. The techs also claimed 1,400 hours of testing work that they never performed.
     “Two technicians responsible for conducting foundation testing for construction projects throughout California claimed over 260 hours of overtime they did not work in 2008 and received over $12,000 for those hours,” the report states. “Further, the two same technicians falsely claimed nearly 1,400 hours of a certain type of testing work to receive extra pay of more than $1,700 to which they were not entitled.”
     “In supervising the two technicians, their supervisor neither required the technicians to obtain preapproval for overtime nor reviewed records readily available to him to confirm that the technicians performed the work they claimed,” Howle added. “This resulted in the technicians being paid for work when there was no evidence the work was performed. In some instances, documents indicated they were performing a type of work that was different from what they claimed.”
     Caltrans also failed to investigate questionable testing data submitted by one of the unidentified technicians, or to check if affected bridges and other structures were sound, according to the report.
     “When questions arose about the authenticity of testing data presented by one of the technicians, Caltrans examined data for other tests involving separate construction projects and found that the same technician appeared to falsify the data for at least three projects,” Howle wrote. “Despite identifying these falsifications, Caltrans did not take any action at that time to determine whether the structures affected were indeed sound.”
     In January, a team of Caltrans engineers identified 11 additional incidents of falsified testing data, Howle said.
     “Ten of the incidents involved one of the technicians who had improperly claimed overtime and differential pay,” the report states. “The other incident involved an engineer who reviewed testing data collected by that same technician.”
     “After learning about these additional data falsifications, Caltrans initiated engineering analyses and concluded that all the affected bridges and structures were adequate structurally,” Howle added.
     A federal investigation revealed that the unidentified supervisor, with help from the technicians, “secretly removed materials from Caltrans facilities and had the materials transported to land that he owned,” according to the report.
     The auditor said the “materials” appear to have been scrap metal.
     She noted that Caltrans says it filed a civil action against the supervisor in May 2012,” in an effort to discover the extent of the materials he removed from Caltrans’ possession and to seek the return of those items or compensation for them.”
     Howle says she made “numerous recommendations” to Caltrans “to remedy the effects of the improper governmental activities.”
     “We plan to evaluate Caltrans’ efforts as part of our follow up process to ensure Caltrans’ asserted actions comply with our recommendations,” the report closes.

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