DOTD Discovers $140M for More Infrastructure Work

Fri June 12, 2009 - Southeast Edition
CEG




BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) The state Department of Transportation and Development warned that work could stop on a Mississippi River bridge project at St. Francisville because of a lack of money.

Now, Secretary William Ankner said the agency has found $140 million it didn’t know it had. Ankner disclosed the budget discrepancy in a recent letter to members of the state Bond Commission.

Ankner said the agency failed to properly track funds going into the TIMED program, a special fund that finances 16 projects with money generated from a 4-cent tax on gasoline.

The announcement came soon after the Bond Commission signed off on a borrowing arrangement that would generate money for some of those projects because DOTD said money would run out in May.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, questioned a $140 million discrepancy between the department’s calculation and that of the state treasury involving cash available for TIMED.

As of March 30, the TIMED account balance stood at $330.56 million instead of the $191.1 million that the transportation agency said, Ankner said.

Fannin’s comment prompted DOTD to research the issue and the agency confirmed the error, Ankner said May 14.

“We will address how to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Ankner said.

Ankner said the record-keeping problem started three years ago when the person in charge left. He said he wants DOTD to move to a more electronic-based data system to eliminate future problems.

He also said the agency will hire an outside consultant “to conduct a full performance audit” of DOTD’s financial services and project finance sections.

Ankner said the newfound money will reduce the amount of future borrowing for TIMED projects and postpone that borrowing until late 2010.