Today Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) announced that he is pursuing the creation of a State Office of Inspector General to oversee transportation agencies with projects funded with state dollars. His bill, Senate Bill 878, has already been approved by the Assembly Transportation Committee and would require the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to study the issue and then submit a report making a recommendation on whether the position should be created.
“Billions of dollars are spent each year on California’s transportation infrastructure,” said DeSaulnier. “We are operating in a challenging world of shrinking transportation revenues and increasing demands It is imperative that we make every transportation dollar go as far as possible. This bill is a modest first step to assure that we are getting the most out of our transportation dollars.”
The CTC is responsible for adopting the five-year State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which is the funding plan for future expansion projects on the state highway system. The most recent STIP consists of more than $3 billion to be allocated and spent over the next five years. These funds, once allocated, are spent by various state and regional entities with relatively little oversight.
SB 878 asks the CTC to look into the best practices of various other offices of inspectors general (OIGs), such as the office for US Department of Transportation (USDOT), New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and California’s Inspector General. The federal government employs OIGs in most of its departments and agencies, charging them with identifying fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement within its parent agency. The USDOT relies heavily on its OIG to ferret out fraud as well as recommend areas of improvement and efficiencies. Many states have also successfully adopted the OIG model, including Pennsylvania and New York and several local transportation agencies.
The CTC report will be due by January 31, 2014. At that time, the Legislature and the Governor would consider the CTC’s recommendations. SB 878 will be heard next by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
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Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) is the Chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and
represents the Seventh Senate District, which includes most of Contra Costa County.