BWI faulted for handling of $38m in contracts

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Photo - Planes at BWI (AP file photo)
Planes at BWI (AP file photo)
Local,Maryland,Transportation,Liz Essley

A Maryland state auditor faulted the agency overseeing the Baltimore airport for its handling of contracts worth $38 million.

The report by the Maryland General Assembly's Office of Legislative Audits found that the Maryland Aviation Administration failed to adequately monitor spending on architectural and engineering contracts, among other issues.

But Paul Wiedefeld, executive director of the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, said the agency has already corrected four of the eight problems the auditor cited and will correct the rest over the next two months.

"It's process-related things that we should be doing. We're going to do training to make sure people understand the processes. Some things we just have to put in place. We just didn't have the mechanical capabilities of doing that. But no one was doing anything unethical. It wasn't that type of issue," Wiedefeld said.

In addition to the lack of oversight on the contracts, auditors found that "internal control and record keeping deficiencies" allowed employees to make purchases without supervisor approval and created problems with inventory records. Though eight employees had the ability to make unapproved purchases, the audit did not find that they bought anything inappropriate.

The auditor said airport officials failed to keep detailed records on snow removal chemicals, creating accounting errors that could have gone undetected. In addition, computer equipment worth more than $100,000 was erroneously listed as costing $42,445.

The audit comes as the agency's peer across the Potomac, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, faces intense scrutiny from federal and local officials for contracting lapses and ethics troubles. But the Maryland agency's lack of oversight on $38 million worth of contracts pales in comparison with the failures federal investigators found at MWAA, which awarded $6 million worth of no-bid contracts in a little more than two years, as well as $225 million in contracts with limited competition.

The audit comes as the Maryland airport continues to see a record-breaking number of passengers, including 1.78 million passengers for September -- a record for that month.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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