Conducted by the U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general, the long-awaited review marked the latest and perhaps the most damning account of failings at the MWAA, which is overseeing construction of the Metrorail extension to Tysons Corner and Dulles International Airport.
From multimillion-dollar contracts that were not competitively bid to employees improperly hired as student interns to circumvent more-rigorous screening, the 50-page report depicts a corporate culture in which rules were routinely ignored.
“It’s worse than I thought,” said Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who with Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), requested the audit. “I knew there were problems, and you could see there were problems, but I think it had really turned into a rat’s nest.’’
Until now, most of the outside criticism has focused on the authority’s board of directors. But the new report takes aim at the conduct of some senior staff members.
Jack Potter, who took over as president and chief executive of the authority one month after the inspector general’s investigation began in June 2011, said at a news conference Thursday that the new report and its 12 recommendations are a “blueprint” for fixing the authority.
Potter — along with the inspector general — noted that the authority has take steps toward correcting some of the shortcomings, including new travel and ethics rules and changes in the contracting process. But he said more work is necessary to restore public trust.
Potter said about 10 employees have been fired or disciplined for infractions cited in the report.
The MWAA board chairman, Michael Curto, said the criticisms have been unpleasant to hear but important. “We appreciate their interest and guidance, and we know they share our goal of making the airports authority a better organization,” Curto said.
Created by the Airports Act of 1986 and an interstate compact, the MWAA operates Dulles and Reagan National airports and the Dulles Toll Road. Problems at the authority are not new; a 2002 federal report, for example, cited many problems in contracting.
But the MWAA’s shortcomings have come under more scrutiny since the authority was charged with overseeing the extension of Metrorail to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport.
The $5.6 billion Silver Line project is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country, and its cost and scope have fueled tensions and led to jockeying for more political control over the authority.