$2.6 billion transportation audit finds no problems; BPW heaps praise on departing secretary

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Many audits of state agencies find wasted dollars, poor accounting controls, lax purchasing measures and even occasional fraud; so it’s worth pointing out that legislative auditors reviewing $2.6 billion of spending that went through the transportation secretary’s office found absolutely nothing.

“Our audit did not disclose any significant deficiencies in the design or operation of the department’s internal control,” said the auditors report. “Nor did our audit disclose any significant instances of noncompliance with applicable laws, rules or regulations.” The financial management information system supports the department’s purchasing, accounting and payment functions.

Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley at opening of Intercounty Connector November 2011. (Photo by govpics)

Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley at opening of Intercounty Connector November 2011. (Photo by govpics)

The good news comes as Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley announced she’s leaving the post July 1, after almost three years in the job. Transportation is one of largest departments in state government with 9,000 employees in five modal agencies with an annual budget of $3.8 million.

Swaim-Staley has had her share of critical audits of agencies including the Mass Transit Administration and the State Highway Administration, but she’s had her share of successes, including the opening of the Intercounty Connector last year.

Comptroller Peter Franchot praised her effusively for several minutes at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting. “For my money, there’s never been anyone better than Bev Staley,” said Franchot, who as a delegate chaired the transportation appropriations subcommittee. “She was always looking for ways to save taxpayer dollars” and had “unassailable integrity.”

Treasurer Nancy Kopp chimed in to “endorse everything the comptroller said,” and Gov. Martin O’Malley joined the chorus of praise.

O’Malley singled out “one very momentous, final accomplishment” for Swaim-Staley – getting “the treasurer and governor to applaud unanimously every word of something the comptroller has said.”

The room burst into laughter and Franchot grinned. The comptroller is often the lone voice of dissent on O’Malley administration contracts, as he would be later that morning at the same meeting.

“That [unanimity] has never happened before and I will be preparing a proclamation to honor the occasion,” O’Malley joked. Franchot actually sides with O’Malley 95% of the time.

Swaim-Staley accepted the praise on a realistic note, pointing out she still had several board meetings to go. “I’m sure we’ll have problems to resolve in the next couple of months,” she said.

“I’ve worked for the state since I was 20 years old and I wouldn’t change a thing,” Swaim-Staley said. “Some of you raised me, let’s be honest.”

–Len Lazarick