The following are corrections of certain statements made in articles concerning Page Airways Inc., Wilmorite Inc. and J.P. Wilmot published during the past year. There is no ongoing dispute between the FAA and Page with respect to an FAA audit of Page's contracts at Dulles and National airports, as stated in our article. In fact, the matter was settled in February 1975. Page has set aside $9 million with a court to cover an antitrust judgement against it, pending the outcome of its appeal. It is not preparing itself to make such a payment and, therefore, does not have to devote any further funds to this purpose as we suggested. Moreover, the company has paid dividends only once in its corporate history and its not having done so during the past two years is not, as we inferred, necessarily related to its having set aside the above-noted $9 million. Wilmorite was not the recipient of $88 million in federal rent subsidies as reported. It was neither an applicant for, nor a direct beneficiary of, these funds. It only contracted with the recipient to build apartment buildings for which it was paid $16,500,000 to cover the costs of construction. The Post reported that Page's National and Dulles airport contracts were awarded in violation of federal competitive bidding policy. We have been informed by some FAA officials that exceptions to the general competitive bidding requirements are permissible, if certain sole source criteria are satisfied and that they believe these criteria were satisfied in Page's case. There is no indication that the FAA decision to extend the Page contracts without rebidding was the product of improper activity by Page or its employes.
The Department of Transportation has begun an investigation of alleged contract irregularities that auditors say have cost the federal government upward of $3.7 million at Washington National and Dulles International airport, the department said yesterday.
The probe, being conducted by the department's inspector general, comes after the Federal Aviation Administration's own auditiors uncovered violations of federal bidding regulations and a failure by the FAA to collect millions of dollars in fees from private firms doing business at the two federally-run airports.
The private companies included car rental agencies, parking lot firms, and an aviation servicing company.
The auditors' reports, which spanned nearly a decade, were routinely ignored by FAA airport administrators, according to the FAA auditors.
"In some cases regulations were broken, in some cases it was bad business judgment, and in some cases there was just no explanation for what they did," said William Murphy, a former FAA auditor now with Transportation's inspector general's office.
At least seven major contracts at the two airports have been extended without bids for up to eight years, according to FAA audits, although the FAA's own regulations and policies call for competitive bidding.
Several of these contracts at National and Dulles are worth millions of dollars annually.
Among the private firms identified by the FAA audits are Page Airways, Inc., which sells fuel and maintenance services for general aviation aircraft; Hertz, Avis and National car rental compaines, Airport Parking Company of America, and System Auto Parks and Garages Inc.
Murphy, who estimated the investigation will take about two months, said the probe is a "high priority item" aimed at "cleaning things up" at the two airports.
Richard Clough, a senior auditor in the inspector general's office, was sharply critical yesterday of the airport administration's handling of the contracts and singled out former FAA Airport Director James Murphy.
"Murphy just chose to ignore our recommendations. The same thing happpened year after year after year," Clough said.Murphy retired last week from the FAA to take a position with an airlines trade association.
Clough said Transportation auditors would review every FAA audit of the airport since 1976, scrutinize FAA files and correspondence, and interview agency officials. A meeting between DOT auditors and the Acting Director of the Metropolitan Washington Airports, James Field Wilding, is scheduled for 10 a.m. today to discuss the investigation.
The findings of the investigation, officially called an audit review, will be forwarded to Inspector General Frank Sato, according to Clough. If warranted, the report will be sent on to Faa Administrator Langhorne Bond For corrective action.
A transportation spokesman said yesterday the report could lead to far-reaching changes in the way contracts are administred at National and Dulles in order to bring the FAA into compliance with its own regulations.
Bond ordered his own inquiry late last week after stories about the alleged irregularities appeared. Robert Aaronson, the FAA's assistant adminstrator for airports, said Bond told him in a telephone call to "take care of the matter and take care of it properly."
Aaronson said he personally will review the FAA audits and contract files for the past two years and perhaps longer to determine if irregularities occurred, and to insure that contracts would be opened for competitive bidding at the earliest possible dates.
The Page Airways contract, which FAA auditors noted had been extended five times since 1968 without bids, will be among the first advertised for bidding, Aaronson said.
"Our policy as of now is one of fostering maximum competition," he said. "There is no equivocation on that point. If that has not been the policy in the past, it is the policy today."
Aaronson acknowledged yesterday that several contracts are "administratively behind schedule and we have to get them on track."
Aaronson also acknowledged that the AFF gas come under increasing attack for ignoring federal regulations and Dulles, which the FAA owns and operates, while imposing the same rules at other airports that receive U.S. funds.
"The thrust now is that the management of (National and Dulles) should set an example for all other airports in the country," he said.
But he added, "I'm not accepting that everything (The FAA auditors) say is correct. May experience and may judgment would lead me not to accept that."