Now that the Washington State Auditor’s Office has discovered millions of taxpayer dollars of excessive and questionable spending on the Columbia River Crossing, state legislators should be looking at ways to prevent future spending abuses on megaprojects.
The CRC spending abuses were discovered after eight years. One obvious way to control abuses would be to require annual state audits of multimillion-dollar, multiyear projects. With no one watching spending, contractors have no incentive to control costs. Audits after the fact are water under the bridge, so to speak.
Some might argue that annual audits would be expensive. But auditing costs included in the cost of the project would more than pay for themselves. With state auditors looking over their shoulders throughout the length of the project, contractors would find it much more difficult to waste taxpayer dollars.
Legislative oversight would be greatly improved by annual audit reports and state departments like the WSDOT would have reason to adopt more responsible project management practices.
State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, could easily introduce legislation to require annual state audits. Such a bill should garner bipartisan support if our legislators are sincere about protecting scarce taxpayer dollars for much needed but expensive projects.