The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is moving aggressively forward in responding to an audit by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, with the goal of “making certain that everything we do going forward reflects the best practices of government and industry,” Chairman Michael Curto told a meeting of the Authority’s Board of Directors on Wednesday.
The 16-month audit’s Final Report, which was issued Nov. 1, cited a number of concerns in the areas of ethics, governance, contracting and human resources and provided 12 recommendations to improve the Authority’s policies, procedures and business practices. The Final Report follows an Interim Report issued in May, and a separate set of recommendations from four top government officials: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray.
In discussing the report, Curto noted that the Airports Authority has “completed several major revisions of policy and procedures, and we have a number of other initiatives under way to bring greater transparency, accountability, efficiency and integrity,” including new travel, ethics and Freedom of Information policies as well as revised bylaws.
“Let me strongly emphasize – as I have throughout this process – that we take all the issues and concerns cited in these reports very seriously,” Curto said. “Our primary focus in responding to the report is rebuilding public trust, assuring accountability and instituting best practices across the Airports Authority. I want to make it very clear that the Board of Directors and senior leadership are fully committed to taking the measures that are appropriate and necessary to address these issues and concerns.”
Curto noted that the Inspector General’s Final Report “acknowledges the steps we have taken so far, and that we have other important activities under way, in response to these issues. We believe we are making good progress, and we are preparing to expand and enhance those efforts based on the findings and recommendations of the Final Report.
“The Board and senior management are committed to strong oversight and internal controls and to making certain that everything we do going forward reflects the best practices of government and industry,” he said. “We will use this report as a tool in expanding and enhancing our work to increase transparency, strengthen governance and build renewed public trust.”
President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Potter told the Board that the Authority’s senior management team has launched an organization-wide effort to respond to each of the 12 recommendations in the Final Report.
“In the area of procurement, which is a major focus of the Final Report, we are making excellent progress in revising our Contracting Manual to reflect best practices and promote fair and open competition. The manual is a lengthy and highly technical document, but we are on track to have a new version ready for the Board’s approval very soon,” Potter said.
In the area of Human Resources, Potter said the Authority is “working to tighten up our hiring, compensation and benefits structures,” adding that, as part of the effort, he has assumed day-to-day management of the Human Resources function, following the recent retirement of the Human Resources vice president. Potter also outlined specific efforts to address each of the Final Report’s recommendations and provide an official response to the Secretary of Transportation by Dec. 1.
“Clearly, we have much work ahead of us,” he said. ”But we believe these actions are good steps forward toward our goal of building renewed confidence in our organization’s integrity and to demonstrate the highest regard for the public we serve.”
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority was established in 1987 by the governments of Virginia and the District of Columbia to manage and operate Washington’s Ronald Reagan National and Dulles International airports, which together serve more than 40 million passengers a year. The Airports Authority also operates and maintains the Dulles Airport Access Road and the Dulles Toll Road and manages construction of the Silver Line project, a 23-mile extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail system into Loudoun County, Va. No taxpayer money is used to operate the toll road, which is funded by toll revenues, or the airports, which are funded through aircraft landing fees, rents and revenues from concessions. The Silver Line construction is funded by a combination of toll-road revenues, airport contributions and federal, state and local government appropriations. The Airports Authority is led by a 17- member board of directors appointed by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., and the president of the United States.