The problem, the inspector general said, is that the MWAA has no policy to provide limits for business-related board travel expenses.
The 18-page draft report, which did not identify board members by name, comes after congressional leaders called for an audit of the quasi-public entity, which has 1,400 employees and a nearly $2 billion budget but is not subject to the same oversight generally faced by airport authorities elsewhere.
The MWAA oversees Reagan National and Dulles International airports as well the construction of Metrorail’s new Silver Line, a 23-mile extension that will expand the rail system to Dulles and into Loudoun County.
The MWAA, like Metro, falls into a gray area when it comes to oversight. Both receive significant government funding and are run by government appointees. But both serve several jurisdictions and are not subject to many of the requirements that govern state or federal agencies.
The airports authority, the report said, has a “culture that is largely unaccustomed to external audits and inquiries by the accountability community.”
The airports authority has been clashing with Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) over funding for the $6 billion Silver Line project. McDonnell has threatened to withhold $150 million in funding for the second phase of the project unless the authority’s board eliminates a labor-friendly contracting incentive. But the board, which is scheduled to meet Wednesday, has shown no sign of being willing to remove the provision.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stepped in a few weeks ago to try to bring the parties to an agreement but failed to conclude a deal.
After Tuesday’s briefing, LaHood said he would soon appoint an accountability officer who will report directly to him to “ensure that MWAA’s policies and practices have additional oversight and meet high standards of ethics and fiscal responsibility.”
The report goes on to say that “gaps in transparency have further undermined MWAA’s accountability by obscuring key information from the public.”
The inspector general’s report criticizes the board and its staff members, saying they were “reluctant to provide access to key documents and grant us private interviews with board members.”
The MWAA’s “policies and procedures related to financial disclosures, travel and transparency are not sufficient to ensure fiduciary and ethical responsibility in the board’s expenses and activities,” according to the report.