This tops the naughty list

Actions by the Maryland State Highway Administration cost taxpayers millions

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Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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The Elf on the Shelf? Ever hear of it? We are doing it for the first time with our kids this year. For those who don't know, the Elf is a tiny doll that parents place in a different spot every night and the figurine is supposed to keep watch over the kids in the days leading up to Christmas. The reason for the changes in location is because every night the Elf is supposed to go back to the North Pole and report to Santa Claus, then he returns in a different spot.

 

My kids have gone crazy over this thing, and I have put the power to good use. One morning, I had my oldest son, Aidan, clean up two rooms in the house before school. In just a few short minutes the landscape was spotless. It was beautiful.

 

Apparently there are no elves on any shelves at the Maryland State Highway Administration. Just a couple weeks after it was reported that the agency maxed out borrowing capacity on the Intercounty Connector project, it was revealed that millions of dollars have been secretly shifted and hidden in order to gather a second and third dose of millions.

The disturbing news came from a second audit in as many months, and after the first dark report the agency essentially made a pledge to turn things around. I believe several people were dismissed, but as you can see the same pattern of corruption is playing out. To be honest, the actions are disgusting and disgraceful.

 

The most extreme case the audit highlighted unfolded like this: The agency approached the Board of Public Works to approve a $16 million contract for inspection services when $15.4 million was still available from a previous bid involving the same type of work in the same district. Two months later, the agency asked for another $16 million when $30 million was still available, and just about a year later demanded another $10 million when there was $36.5 million in unspent funds.

 

The road and bridge industry does so much to keep this country moving, but unfortunately it simply cannot shake the corrupt actions of politicians and policy makers. Greed is overpowering--and it is everywhere. It's enough to make an elf cry.

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