State audit: NC Dept of Transportation still risks exceeding spending plan

Spending plan still not based on specific projects and operations

Photo courtesy of NCDOT

RALEIGH — A new audit conducted by the N.C. Office of the State Auditor says that the state’s department of transportation is still at risk for exceeding its proposed spending plan.

The audit’s findings said that while the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) did not exceed its developed spending plan for the first half of state fiscal year 2021, the NCDOT Spending Plan “was not developed based on specific projects and operations scheduled for the fiscal year.”

“Consequently, the fact that the Department had not yet exceeded its Spending Plan was largely due to chance. It was not the result of Department Management’s planning and control based on realistic expectations for the fiscal year,” the audit summary says.

The audit continues, stating that “the Department is still at risk for exceeding its Spending Plan in future periods” because NCDOT has not implemented the State Auditor’s previous recommendations.

The recommendations given to NCDOT included development of a Spending Plan based on specific projects and operations. The NCDOT was also supposed to “monitor and enforce highway division compliance with the Spending Plan.”

The audit made new recommendations, which included implementing the previous set of recommendations. Additionally, the chief engineer’s office should “formally monitor each highway division’s spending on a regular basis throughout the fiscal year to ensure that highway divisions do not overspend.”

NCDOT Secretary Eric Boyette issued a response letter, which was included with the audit documentation. Boyette agreed with the audit’s findings that his department had not exceeded its spending plan. He also said there “is some continued risk” but that NCDOT was working to implement the recommendations.

Read the full audit report on the N.C. State Auditor’s website.

A 2020 audit of the NCDOT found overspending of $742 million. The audit detailed a lack of oversight, planning and monitoring by the chief engineer’s office and that the NCDOT’s spending plan was not based on actual cost estimates of specific projects.

The overspending prompted lawmakers to hold a hearing, at which State Auditor Beth Wood testified that the cash mismanagement at the department “absolutely” was a factor.

NCDOT’s budget issues led to future construction contracts being cut by $2 billion in 2020. In addition to the contract cuts, employees were subject to rolling furloughs.

A second 2020 audit from Wood’s office dinged the NCDOT for improper salary raises and adjustments totaling around $39 million.

Prior to the publication of the series of negative audits of the NCDOT, the agency’s top official resigned. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Secretary James Trogdon’s resignation on Feb. 4. 2020.

Trogdon was hired at $195,352 a year, which is $50,000 more than the governor and $57,314 more than was paid to Nick Tennyson, the former secretary under the McCrory administration.

About A.P. Dillon 512 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_