PA Auditor General: Turnpike Commission lost millions in taxpayer funds

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jackwagnerThe Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is coming under fire by Auditor General Jack Wagner for making “risky” financial decisions that cost Pennsylvania tax payers nearly $110 million.

With just a week left on the job, Wagner released a scathing report on the Turnpike Commission, urging its leaders to immediately fix a long list of deficiencies.  According to Wagner’s office, the commission attempted to save money by getting involved in interest-rate swaps, but the decision caused the commission to lose $108.9 million dollars over four years.

“Swaps may be perfectly acceptable for the private sector, where private citizens are free to decide how much risk they can tolerate when their own money is at stake, but swaps should have no role in government, where taxpayers’ money is at stake,” Wagner said.

Millions have also been lost because of other poor financial decisions, according to Wagner.  Currently Turnpike Commission employees and vendors are allowed to ride for free; however, Wagner is urging that the policy to be changed immediately.  According to the audit, the free rides have come out to a revenue loss of $7.7 million between January 2007 and August 2001.Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Acting Chief Executive Officer Craig R. Shuey responded the allegations, saying “[w]hile we disagree necessarily upon the weight of each of your recommendations, it is clear to me that when system safety and provision of services are considered, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is performing as should be expected.”

Other problems listed in the report include:

• Turnpike Commission let employees ride the turnpike toll-free, even for personal travel
• Turnpike Commission provided more than $4.1 million of toll-free travel to nearly 5,000 consultants, contractors, and other state government officials
• Turnpike Commission is overly generous and permissive when reimbursing commissioners for expenses, and lacks transparency and accountability with regard to those expenses.
• Turnpike Commission actively monitored the E-Z Pass system to ensure correct fares are charged
• Turnpike Commission monitored, maintained, and inspected its tunnels, but it has not implemented fire detection systems in two of the five tunnels (Allegheny and Tuscarora) and critical project management practices that would ensure recommendations resulting from tunnel inspections are not overlooked.

For the entire report, click here.

For the full response from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, click here.