INVESTIGATION: Auditor’s report nails Caltrans employees

“Inexcusable neglect of duty” among the accusations against Caltrans employees

News California State Auditor April 01, 2013
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The California State Auditor has released a report related to a complaint of falsified test data from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

 

The auditor concluded that two technicians responsible for conducting foundation testing for construction projects throughout California claimed over 260 hours of overtime they did not work in 2008 and received over $12,000 for those hours. Further, the two same technicians falsely claimed nearly 1,400 hours of a certain type of testing work to receive extra pay of more than $1,700 to which they were not entitled.

 

When questions arose about the authenticity of testing data presented by one of the technicians, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) examined data for other tests involving separate construction projects and found that the same technician appeared to falsify the data for at least three projects. Despite identifying these falsifications, Caltrans did not take any action at that time to determine whether the structures affected were indeed sound.

 

A team of Caltrans engineers subsequently—in a January 2013 report—identified 11 incidents of falsified testing data.

 

Ten of the incidents involved one of the technicians who had improperly claimed overtime and differential pay. The other incident involved an engineer who reviewed testing data collected by that same technician.

 

After learning about these additional data falsifications, Caltrans initiated engineering analyses and concluded that all the affected bridges and structures were adequate structurally.

 

The auditor made numerous recommendations to Caltrans to remedy the effects of the improper governmental activities, according to the report.

 

The state auditor received information in early 2009 that certain transportation engineering technicians at Caltrans might be receiving overtime and additional money for work they did not perform. Caltrans employs such technicians to conduct foundation testing for transportation structures, including freeway overpasses and bridges and employs engineers to interpret the data generated by the testing. The auditor asked Caltrans to assist with the investigation.

 

In response to the auditor’s request and a complaint that Caltrans received in 2009, Caltrans and two federal agencies initiated related investigations into the falsification of testing data and misappropriation of state property by Caltrans employees.

 

The auditor found Caltrans’ initial review of the allegation regarding improper pay—completed in September 2009—to be inadequate. Further, when the auditor received Caltrans’ final report in October 2011, the auditor determined it needed to conduct additional interviews and perform more analyses to validate its findings as well as take into account the results of the federal agencies’ investigations.

 

The full report is available on the auditor’s office website: http://www.bsa.ca.gov.

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