Sustained Outrage

Highway robbery II

As evidence of runaway engineering fees on various state highway projects, Gov. Joe Manchin’s office compiled a few examples. These 10 pages cover projects in Wood, Pendleton, Hancock, Roane, Grant, Preston, Cabell, Monongalia, Berkeley and Lincoln counties.

At the bottom of each page, Paul Turman, deputy commissioner of the state Division of Highways, has written the percentage of the total project cost claimed by engineering fees.

Engineering services on smaller projects often make up a greater percentage of the price than they do on larger projects. Even so, engineering fees should fall roughly between 5 and 12 percent of the total cost of the project, according to a group of architects and engineers I spoke with last week.

barrel.jpgIn these examples, the highest percentage is 69 percent to widen a section of WV 105 to three lanes in Hancock County. The lowest percentage in this sample is 27 percent to add a turning lane on U.S. 33 in Franklin, Pendleton County.

For more background, see Highway robbery?

Highway robbery?

barrel.jpgWhile working on today’s column, I learned from the governor’s office about an alarming federal audit of charges by engineering firms that are paid with federal highway money.  After a number of states complained of the fees they were charged, the feds looked at the charges of 41 design and engineering firms out of 3,580. Here’s a taste of the findings:

“We found that indirect cost rate claims from 21, of our sample of 41, D&E firms included unallowable costs — some expressly unallowable — totaling about $15.7 million. Of that amount, state DOT contracts were charged about $5.5 million, of which about $4.4 million — the Federal share — was reimbursed with Federal-aid funds. Examples of unallowable costs we found were:

$301,667 for 45 automobile leases — 5 of which were luxury class including Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus — with no documented business purpose.

$280,609 in executive compensation in excess of the Federal statutory cap.

$247,685 for items such as social dinners with clients; dining club memberships; outings to professional and college sporting events; theme and holiday parties; and trips to Atlantic City, a city zoo, and a county expo fair.

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