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Transportation Department Audit On MWAA Finds Violations

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An audit has revealed irregularities from the board tasked with overseeing two of the D.C. region's three airports.
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An audit has revealed irregularities from the board tasked with overseeing two of the D.C. region's three airports.

A federal audit report released today by the Department of Transportation's Inspector General details $220 million contracts, at least two-thirds of contracts awarded by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, were awarded without full or open competition.

The agency that operates Dulles International and Reagan National airports and the $6 billion Silver Line rail project engaged in unethical hiring and questionable contracting practices that were enabled by a "culture of favoritism" and lacking internal checks, according to the audit.

The audit detailed questionable dealings at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority from January 2009 to June 2011. During that period, MWAA awarded 190 contracts that exceeded $200,000 but only 36 percent were awarded with full and open competition, the audit said. These contract awards failed to comply with MWAA's own contracting manual and were inconsistent with the intent of the Airports Act of 1986, the audit said.

"In some cases, senior officials abused MWAA's student program to hire employees who were not students, using personnel documentation that falsely showed student status. MWAA's lack of oversight also resulted in employees with known criminal convictions working at the Authority in sensitive and management positions for more than a year," the audit said. Read the audit in it entirety

While the audit did not name names, it named positions.  For instance, MWAA's Vice President for Human Resources hired two relatives to work at the agency and then denied it. The vice president, Arl Williams, resigned in advance of the audit's release.

In another case mentioned by auditors, a former board member, Mame Reilly, was hired by MWAA CEO Jack Potter to fill a vaguely defined position for an annual salary of $180,000.  Reilly stepped down after a public outcry but was paid a year's severance. Neither Reilly nor Potter was mentioned by name.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Potter and MWAA board chairman Michael Curto addressed the audit's findings, promising to work to regain the public's trust.

"We are gratified that the final report acknowledges the actions we have taken since the May Interim Report, as well as our ongoing initiatives, to bring greater transparency and accountability, efficiency, and integrity to our operations and governance," Curto said.

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