Kudos go out to Senator Mark DeSaulnier for calling on the audit of the purchase of an office building in San Francisco using toll bridge funds. Even if the move was deemed legal, this still seems suspect at best while DeSaulnier should be applauded for fighting for an audit to occur.
Yesterday, the State Auditor released a report detailing her findings of her investigation into the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Headquarters Authority’s (BAHA) acquisition of a new office building in San Francisco purchased with toll bridge funds. In her report, the State Auditor has determined that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) purchase of an office building at 390 Main Street in San Francisco, “exposes toll payers to undisclosed financial risk.”
Findings from the Audit include:
- MTC did not adequately consider the long-term financial risk of acquiring a new office building. Toll payers are at risk of losing up to $30 million over a 30 year period.
- Recent decisions by BAHA to reduce the amount of leasable space will further put the toll payers on the hook for an additional $20 million.
- MTC/BAHA made some wrong assumptions as to which agencies would be co-locating in the new building.
- Recommendation that the Legislature could consider amending state law to further restrict how toll revenues should be spent.
- Recommends that the Legislature could amend state law to provide for additional separation between BATA and MTC and require that each entity have their own staff.
Here is the full report if http://www.bsa.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2011-127.pdf
“The State Auditor has clearly pointed out that MTC and BAHA did not undertake a complete analysis of the long term financial risk to toll payers. Even with conservative estimates, toll payers could be left holding the bag for $30 million,” said Senator Mark DeSaulnier, Chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee (D-Concord). “In addition, the Auditor’s analysis shows even more risk, an additional $20 million, based on recent renovation decisions by MTC/BAHA to reduce available lease space.”
“I have been concerned for over a year that MTC/BAHA is operating without accountability and beyond the authority provided to them in law,” said DeSaulnier. “All I wanted was an independent review. I commend the State Auditor and her staff for all their hard work. I would like to hear from MTC/BAHA how they plan on reducing the risk to toll payers and ensure that the money is repaid.”