See also Couv.com for Forensic accountant slams high costs, low competition of CRC and Audio of testimony by Ms. Couch
After many months of work, Forensic accountant Tiffany Couch has released her CRC Forensic Accounting Analysis (81 page pdf)
Her work has “identified numerous significant questionable accounting and contracting practices involving the CRC.”
Today, January 19, 2011, she held a meeting in the Republican Caucus Room with Washington State Legislators where she shared her findings with “Representatives Armstrong, Clibborn, Harris, Moeller, Orcutt, and Rivers. Washington State Department of Transportation officials on hand included: David Dye, Deputy Secretary of Transportation; Steve McKerney, WSDOT Director of Internal Audit; and Bob Covington, Director of Accounting and Financial Services. CRC project office officials and staff were invited but chose not attend.”
As previously noted, Tiffany Couch was one of 15 speakers speaking at the Smarter Bridge Committee News Conference held last Thursday morning on the northern bank of the Columbia River, each expressing their own misgivings on the current project as planned.
Ms. Couch communicated questionable accounting practices on just where has some $150 Million of our tax dollars gone. She touched on this in the Executive Summary,
“As a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner it is my professional opinion – based upon the information I have reviewed, and measured against the continued difficulties I’ve experienced with Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project office members – that the accounting and contracting practices for the CRC project are characterized by irregularities and planning missteps on many fronts. The magnitude of these irregularities, in terms of quantity, amount, and qualitative aspects of the project, are more than adequate to indicate that this project is suffering from a severe lack of accountability, transparency, and oversight. It is my further opinion that these irregularities are of a sufficient depth to warrant an intervention on the project, and perhaps a termination or delay until procedures are in place that provide for centralized accounting and financial decision making, and compliance with federal and state contracting standards. Whether there is sufficiency to elevate these irregularities to a definition that would warrant the assertion of civil or criminal practices is not the subject of my comments today. Such definition could not be ascribed without further scrutiny and investigation. That responsibility from here forward falls to you – the elected officials who run these states – in your representation of your constituents, the citizens of Washington (and Oregon).
I have maintained for some time, based off of what I read in the Columbian, the Oregonian and the Willamette Week that an investigation is warranted and if need be, a criminal investigation conducted by the Department of Justice. That does not mean any actual criminal acts have been performed, but it would reveal just what has been going on.
We should not forget the rancor over a misplaced $100,000 in the city of Washougal just a couple years ago that resulted in a criminal investigation. Here we are concerned with over $150 Million so far!
Days ago the Portland Tribune published, “Irvington group gathers money for bridge legal fight Neighborhood coalition expected to appeal Columbia River Crossing to federal court” informing us the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods Inc intentions of “appealing the massive bridge project to federal court.”
Few people don’t agree that the bridge across the Columbia in the I-5 corridor shouldn’t be replaced, but we also acknowledge that the current $3.5 Billion to $10 Billion design is much more than is needed and will not decrease congestion through that area. Most admit if reducing congestion is really the overall goal, more bridges would be needed and a vast improvement would need to be seen in the I-5 freeway through Portland, Oregon.
There is also the matter of forcing Clark County resident’s to accept Portland’s financially struggling light rail extended into our community, even though 3 past votes have indicated we do not wish it to be brought over here.
Speakers at the Smarter Bridge Committee news conference also brought out that there are at least 3 other proposals in existence to deal with replacing the bridge at a reasonable cost and that might actually reduce congestion that have not been considered.
Citizen efforts at accountability have been ignored and ridiculed by community elected leaders with the willing help of the Columbian who once featured a front page article with photos of the citizens who most often question the project.
Successful businessman David Madore, who hired Ms. Couch to do the work the government should have been doing and reporting became the target of elected leaders and the Columbian.
To their credit, even the Columbian has began questioning and publishing editorials expressing misgivings on the project too, here and here. As strong of a cheerleader as the Columbian has been, to see them now making such a drastic turnaround screams for some level of investigation.
Little doubt that Vancouver mayor, Boss Tim ‘the liar’ Leave-it’ and county commissioner Steve Stuart will try to marginalize the report from Ms. Couch and continue trying to shove this project down our throats, whether we can afford it or even want it.
I hope that between the legislatures of both states as well as ODOT and WSDOT, this boondoggle will come to a screeching halt until questions are answered, proper accountability is put into place and if warranted, prosecutions taking place.
It can and must be done better.