Outside Metro audit faces more delays

WASHINGTON — An audit into the financial health of Metro has been delayed and won’t be released Thursday, the latest in a series of delays.

In March, Metro told lawmakers that the McGladrey audit would be complete and released by April 30.  But Metro told the D.C. Council on Wednesday that more paperwork needs to be submitted, and the report is now delayed until further notice.

“It’s disturbing to me that WMATA has not safeguarded taxpayer dollars.  We need to get Metro back on the right track,” says Councilwoman Elissa Silverman (I-At Large).

Interim Metro General Manager Jack Requa explained to lawmakers that there is no new target date for the report.

“Our auditors gave us a listing of information they want provided.  We anticipate completing that submittal by the end of next week.  Hopefully that will be sufficient for them to complete the audit,” Requa said.

“Everybody was aiming for April 30, but that’s turned out not to be realistic.  I think they’re not interested in focusing on a date; they’re trying to focus on completing the audit as soon as possible,” he added.

The audit began after the Federal Transit Administration report criticized the way Metro handled federal grant money from April 2012 to March 2013.  With Metro asking local and federal officials to increase funding, many are looking at the audit as a barometer of how the agency is using the taxpayer dollars it already receives.

Silverman questioned Metro about whether the audit will ever be released.

“I don’t believe there’s any reason that McGladrey can’t complete their audit.  The question is what will their comments and their recommendation be, and ultimately, their opinion,” says Metro’s acting chief financial officer, J. Blair Fishburn.

Moody’s downgraded Metro’s bond rating in March because of concerns raised in the FTA report and the ongoing audit.  Fishburn must now report the delays to Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s and hope the rating agencies will be OK with it.

“It’s possible we get an action from Standard & Poor’s.  I can’t say what Moody’s will do, but I remain hopeful there won’t be another downgrade from them,” says Fishburn.

The delay was announced a day after the House Appropriations Committee released a plan to slash Metro’s appropriation from $150 million to $75 million, which could be a reaction to Metro’s safety and financial problems.

Most Metro insiders don’t think the congressional cuts will survive to the final budget, but the audit will be closely watched on Capitol Hill.

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