Senate leaders call for Columbia River Crossing investigation following WPC request for an audit

April 18, 2013

By Anne Davis, Research Assistant

Last week, Senate leaders called for a formal investigation into the multi-billion-dollar Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project. In a two-page letter to Governor Inslee, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus highlighted the need for an immediate investigation of the CRC, following the results of an independent audit. This letter echoes a Washington Policy Center letter from December 4 to then-State Auditor Brian Sonntag. The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. Sonntag,

Please consider our request for the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) to perform an audit on the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project, in light of new information from an independent financial investigation.

Based in Vancouver, Washington, Acuity Group is a forensic accounting firm specializing in financial and fraud investigations. In 2011, Acuity Group was hired to analyze the CRC project and its expenditures. After reviewing thousands of documents, interviewing CRC officials and attending dozens of meetings, Acuity Group published four detailed reports, which are enclosed for your information.

I met with officials from Acuity Group and I reviewed their reports. Their investigation on the CRC project found contracting irregularities, incomplete accounting, double payments, cost overruns, conflicts of interest, and violations of the Open Public Meetings Act.

Given this new information, and the CRC’s scope and potential costs, we respectfully request that your office fully investigate the project.

Sincerely,

Washington Policy Center

In a press release from April 12, Senator Ann Rivers spoke to the necessity of an investigation, stating:

When one certified fraud examiner validates the auditing done by another certified fraud examiner, and they agree there is “sufficient evidence to open inquiries” about CRC subcontractors, it’s time to start asking those questions — not time to sink 450 million more [Washington] taxpayer dollars into the project.

You can read the rest of the press release here, as well as the Senate Majority Coalition’s two-page letter to Governor Inslee here.

Anne Davis is a research assistant with Washington Policy Center as part of WPC’s Doug and Janet True Internship Program. WPC is a nonpartisan, independent policy research organization in Washington state.