Vancouver-based forensic accountant Tiffany Couch gave an update of her analysis of financial documents related to the Columbia River Crossing Bridge and Light Rail project at Bridging the Gaps 2 on Oct. 8.

Couch initially reported on the CRC’s poor accounting practices during the first Bridging the Gaps conference in June.

Couch examined thousands of pages of electronic documents supplied by the CRC via a Freedom of Information request. She found that the CRC was unable to adequately account for how it spent $108 million in public funds between July 2005 and February 2011. Oddities included invoices totaling $15 million lacking vendor names and invoices worth $38 million that lacked codes to identify services rendered.

More recently, Couch received and analyzed the CRC’s seemingly sweetheart contract with David Evans and Associates, general contractor on the CRC project. Couch describes how the CRC’s original call for consultants in 2005 listed a budget of $20 million for the environmental phase of the project. The only firm to bid was David Evans and Associates, an engineering firm based in Portland.

In May 2005, the CRC signed a $50 million contract with David Evans to deliver a draft environmental impact statement for the project. The contract included large mark-ups for overhead and an assortment of other fees on top of labor charges. For example, in one invoice dated April 17, 2007, David Evans listed its labor cost as $91,536, but the invoice totaled $280,291 after the various mark-ups were applied. The CRC paid it.

Couch also discovered that until August 2009 David Evans routinely added a four percent fee to subcontractor billings, a practice not stipulated in its original contract. David Evans received more than $1.4 million in income from these unapproved fees. The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) discovered the practice during an internal audit dated Jan 26, 2010. However, rather than requiring David Evans to pay back the money received, the internal auditor advised that the contract be retroactively changed to allow for the markup.

Couch also describes how David Evans asked for an additional $40 million, without detailed explanation, to complete its contract. WSDOT not only agreed, but later approved another $10 million. In all, David Evans is scheduled to receive $105 for what was originally a $50 million contract.

Couch said her investigation is ongoing and will continue as the CRC provides her with requested documents.

Video directed by Jordan Thompson
Video shot by LifePoint

See our continuing coverage of the Columbia River Crossing Light Rail project.

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