School construction agency faulted for project oversight, incomplete records and missing reports

By Becca Heller

Becca@MarylandReporter.com

Dundalk High School under construction (Photo by sugargliding on Flickr)

Dundalk High School under construction (Photo by sugargliding on Flickr)

The Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC), which oversees the state’s $336 million annual school construction budget, had problems overseeing construction projects, recovering state funds, and reporting on maintenance inspections, auditors found in a report released Friday.

Auditors identified four weaknesses in the IAC’s operations, highlighting concerns that the milllions of dollars going into school construction called for better management and administration. The Interagency Committee is under the Board of Public Works, chaired by the governor.

The audit found the committee’s records disorganized and, at times, lacking altogether, making it difficult to track projects and contract costs.

Some recommendations accepted, others rejected

In its report, the Office of Legislative Audits recommended the committee implement a better record-review system and called for the IAC to “maintain written minutes detailing the matters considered and the actions taken by the IAC during its meetings as required by the Opening Meetings Act.”

The IAC accepted those suggestions in its response to the audit.

However, when auditors suggested that the IAC did a poor job monitoring construction projects — part of the agency’s core mission — the IAC respectfully disagreed.

“IAC staff did monitor the status of construction projects to ensure the timely submission of project close-out documents, based upon the best information available to the finance office in order to determine an estimated date of completion or occupancy,” IAC Executive Director David Lever wrote in his response.

Behind in reports on maintenance

Finally, the audit pointed out that the committee was way behind on its records of the maintenance inspections of public schools.

“Although IAC conducted 232 maintenance inspections for all [local school systems] during fiscal year 2011, IAC had issued the results of only 57 of these inspections to the [systems], as of March 21, 2012,” the report stated.

The audit recommended that the committee do whatever necessary to catch up on these records. The agency responded by designating a staff person to keep up the reports.

Since Gov. Martin O’Malley took office in 2007, almost $2.6 billion has been put into school construction. This year further efforts have been put towards financing construction with the Baltimore City Public Schools Construction and Revitalization Act of 2013.

The IAC remains the lead agency in the oversight process as schools statewide undergo construction.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

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