CDOT Says It’s Trying To Improve Accountability And Transparency After Critical Audit

Rush hour traffic on I-25, June 15, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Rush hour traffic on I-25.

The Colorado Department of Transportation on Friday announced a new series of transparency and accountability measures.

The steps come after a critical state audit released last year found problems with CDOT’s accounting practices. Among its findings: The agency did not have practices in place to detect employee fraud and did not close out projects in a timely manner.

“The department is not maximizing its available funding,” the audit said.

CDOT’s new measures contained four main points:

  • More transparency in project planning and delivery. These efforts include CDOT’s tour of the state that gathered public input from all 64 counties and helped shape the agency’s 10-year project pipeline. And CDOT said it will launch online “dashboards” later this spring to show the progress of projects.
  • New budgeting practices. One example is new software that can help detect “irregular spending patterns” and that could head off possible fraud. (CDOT is quick to point out that last year’s audit didn’t find any evidence of fraud.) The agency also said it will make its budget more clear so that the public can better track how money is spent.
  • More money spent on road work. CDOT is cutting back on things like out-of-state travel and its “RoadX” technology program that launched in 2015. Instead, the agency plans to refocus on core functions like building and maintaining roads.
  • New controls on contractors. The agency has new guidelines to try to ensure that projects are “clearly defined, well-executed and have firm timelines.”

The agency’s governing body recently approved more than $1.5 billion worth of projects over the next three years.

“This initiative is particularly important now,” CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said in a statement.

And state lawmakers are currently discussing how to get more money into CDOT’s coffers. Republicans would prefer taking it from the state’s general fund, while Democrats hope to take a tax increase to voters sometime in the future.

No matter how those discussions at the state Capitol unfold in the coming weeks, Republican Sen. Ray Scott said it’s imperative that CDOT can show it’s a good steward of public dollars.

“There would be nothing worse than us pushing measures forward to ask for more funding and then find out that CDOT is actually not spending money it’s getting wisely,” he said.

Scott called CDOT’s announcement a step in the right direction.

“I have to give them kudos,” he said.