The title of the California State Auditor’s report on the state’s planned $42-billion high-speed rail system pretty much sums up the situation: “[High-speed rail] Risks Delays or an Incomplete System Because of Inadequate Planning, Weak Oversight, and Lax Contract Management.”

The report was a broad-based indictment on the High-Speed Rail Authority’s handling of a proposed system that supporters say will change the face of travel up and down the Golden State.

Last month Voice of OC reported the high-speed rail project is so poorly thought-out at this point that even supporters say the plans might have to be completely overhauled.

The audit report reached essentially the same conclusion. Among the audit’s findings.

  • The Authority’s 2009 business plan estimates it needs $17 billion to $19 billion in federal funds. However, the Authority has no federal commitments beyond $2.25 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), and other potential federal programs are small.
  • The Authority’s plan for spending includes almost $12 billion in federal and state funds through 2013, more than 2.5 times what is now available.
  • The Authority does not have a system in place to track expenditures according to categories established by the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century, its largest source of committed funding.
  • The Authority has not completed some systems needed to administer Recovery Act funds, for example, a system to track jobs created and saved.
  • Some monthly progress reports, issued by the Authority’s contracted Program Manager to provide a summary of program status, contain inconsistent and inaccurate information.
  • Authority staff paid at least $4 million of invoices from regional contractors received after December 2008, without having documented written notification that the Program Manager had reviewed and approved the invoices for payment.
  • The Authority paid contractors more than $268,000 for services performed outside of the contractors’ work plans and purchased $46,000 in furniture for one of its contractor’s use, based on an oral agreement contradicted by a later written contract.

I’m digging through the audit and making a round of calls to folks like Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, the chair of the rail authority. Stay tuned.

— TRACY WOOD

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