NCDOT Report Details Inefficiencies, Employee Concerns About Agency

Mon November 19, 2007 - Southeast Edition
CEG



RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) A 470-page report that probes the inner workings of the state Department of Transportation said the agency lacks a vision, lags in productivity and doesn’t adequately prioritize and fund projects.

The report, produced by consultant McKinsey & Co., is based on anonymous surveys from nearly 9,000 DOT employees and on interviews with state, business and local officials. The assessment, which praised and criticized the agency, cost $1.1 million.

Some of the agency’s employees said their superiors waste time and money but that there isn’t a safe outlet to voice those concerns.

“I don’t feel comfortable being able to express an opinion or idea without some kind of political ramification,” a clerical worker said.

“[It] would be wonderful to feel like you could actually speak with upper management without having to feel that you need to walk on eggshells,” another employee said. “Should you dare to disagree with one of the politically appointed ones ... good luck with your career.”

State Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said the report provides an honest look at the department and will help make it a better organization.

“You don’t know how you look until you get your picture took,” Tippett said, adding that the consultant helped identify new ways of efficiency that could save $50 million.

The report did praise the DOT’s leadership for a willingness to reform and an agency committed to serving.

But the consultant said the DOT had numerous and sometimes inconsistent goals, suggesting a need to clarify its vision and prioritize projects in a transparent manner. A clear plan would help the agency improve its productivity on the most essential projects, the report said.

Consultants also said the DOT did not keep enough flexibility in its funding methods, and the report suggested that the agency aggressively pursue public-private partnerships and other methods used by other states.

The report particularly focused on the agency’s organizational structure, finding that each of DOT’s working parts do not necessarily work with each other and maintain a “silo” mentality.

“Imagine two guys in a garage full of car parts, with a black curtain that splits the garage in half,” said one engineer in the Preconstruction section of the highway division, which handles planning and design, among other functions. “These guys have to build a car by passing notes to each other from either side. That’s Preconstruction.”

Despite the criticism, Tippett said the report was an important step.

“Our motive from the outset was to take a good organization, which DOT is, in my opinion, and make it better,” he said. “I think what we’ve done with hiring this consultant is something unheard of in state government.”