. . . [Senate Transportation Committee] Lawmakers asked [NCDOT] department officials how, in fiscal year 2018-19, the DOT spent $742 million more than its budget, based on a May audit report.
Senators reviewed the department’s budgeting process, its oversight mechanisms and its responsibility for the budget hole that threw the transportation industry into chaos.
The coronavirus has only made DOT’s cash problems worse. The department says it lost another $300 million to the coronavirus and could furlough as many as 9,400 employees in phases, starting Saturday, May 30.
The department failed to budget with actual cost estimates for projects, and it failed to monitor or enforce its spending plan at DOT’s 14 highway divisions, says the audit. Department leaders agreed with the underlying findings in the audit, but said it was difficult to take a “one-year snapshot” of a cash flow operation that uses multi-year contracts.
The department has created a financial oversight and improvement director, who will help strengthen oversight and transparency. DOT plans to improve its data use, budget adherence, oversight, and transparency, said Eric Boyette, N.C. Department of Transportation secretary. . .
The department said it knew about cash problems in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019, and that it took steps to slow projects and reduce spending. State Auditor Beth Wood said she couldn’t find any evidence the department slowed spending.
The department said it could prove it slowed spending, but affirmed that the auditor had requested to see proof of that reduction. Lawmakers questioned whether the department actually made efforts to stay within budget. . .