By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
A recent Legislative Auditor’s report focused on the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) found the agency has resolved most issues from last year’s audit, with the exception of timely documentation of quality assurance testing.
Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack issued a report on the DOTD last week that verified the department’s financial information, evaluated the effectiveness of internal controls over financial reporting and compliance, and determined whether management took action to correct findings from a 2021 audit.
“We determined that management has resolved the prior-year finding related to Deficiencies in Controls over Electronic Payroll Certification and Approvals,” according to the report. “The prior-year finding related to Untimely Submission of Summary Samples and Test Results Form has not been resolved and is addressed again in this letter.”
The Summary Samples and Test Results Form, known as a Form 2059, is part of the DOTD’s project close-out documentation for projects of the Highway Planning and Construction Cluster.
The document requires certification by applicable engineers and includes documentation related to the quality of materials used for projects, including sampling plans and test results of the materials. DOTD policy calls for the form to be submitted within 90 days of final acceptance of a project.
“In a sample of 19 projects receiving final acceptance during fiscal year 2021, DOTD did not ensure the Summary of Samples and Test Results Form was completed within 90 days of the project’s final acceptance for 10 (53%) of the projects tested,” according to the report.
“For six (32%) of these projects, the form was completed untimely, ranging from 102 to 265 days after final acceptance. For four (21%) of these projects, the form was not completed as of November 2021, with final acceptance dates in July 2020, January 2021, April 2021, and June 2021.”
One of two other important projects reviewed by auditors also did not have a completed form as of November 2021, despite final acceptance in May 2021.
Auditors contend DOTD officials neglected to ensure district engineers approved and submitted the forms to DOTD headquarters on time.
“The absence of such documentation could result in a lack of support that the quality of materials and workmanship used met the requirements for a federally funded project,” auditors wrote. “DOTD should continue tracking projects receiving final acceptance and emphasize the importance of timely submittal of the Summary of Samples and Test Results Form to district engineers. In addition, DOTD may consider alternative methods for district engineers to document their review and approval of the sampling and testing results.”
Auditors found DOTD’s financial information was correct and in compliance.
DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson sent a letter to Waguespack on April 1 responding to the report’s findings, noting that the department is transitioning between its current manual process for collecting the samples and test form to an automated system that “will provide significant efficiencies.”
“This system will allow real time sampling and testing results for all projects,” he wrote. “Since all information is digital, this should aid in completing the form more timely.”
“Currently half of the districts have been trained and are using (the automated system) for new projects,” Wilson wrote. “The remaining districts are planned to be fully implemented statewide by December 31, 2022.”
Wilson also cited numerous other efforts the department is undertaking to address the issue, including a monthly late projects report, highlighting the issue at statewide meetings, and communications with those involved “to give top priority to ensure all required work is completed on time.”