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Cantalupo explains overdue audit at his final CAMPO meeting

Thursday, June 17, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

Joe Cantalupo, in his last meeting as CAMPO’s executive director, had to answer some of his toughest questions yet: For instance, how did the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization manage to avoid its required annual financial audit?

 

Cantalupo presented the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board with its first audit in at least a decade at Monday night’s meeting. This despite the fact that any jurisdiction receiving more than $500,000 in federal funding is expected to have an annual audit.

 

How, Cantalupo was asked after the meeting, had CAMPO avoided that federal edict for so long, even as CAMPO served as the pass-through agency for multi-million transportation projects around the region?

 

“I don’t know,” Cantalupo admitted. “Keep in mind, we had an unqualified audit report. That means everything checks out. There was nothing wrong.”

 

Still, CAMPO failed to meet that essential requirement. Members of the Transportation Policy Board, up to and including Chair Judge Sam Biscoe, were surprised by the admission. Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, for instance, probed for what kind of controls might have been in place.

 

“With regard to the previous history, had there been internal audits rather than independent audits?” Eckhardt asked Cantalupo.

 

“The only thing I can tell you,” Cantalupo said, “I have never seen an internal or external audit of CAMPO. We knew it two years ago, that we had to get it done. It took us two years to get into the rhythm of this thing.”

 

No, it did not appear that CAMPO had its required annual audit. But there was nothing in the audit completed by Monday N. Rufus, P.C., that indicated the organization had failed in managing its finances, Cantalupo said.

 

“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Cantalupo said, adding that CAMPO does file an annual performance expenditure report with the Texas Department of Transportation, providing expenditure specifics in five key areas.

 

The lack of audits came to light after former Chair Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) requested what Cantalupo described as “an accounting review” of the organization. That gave CAMPO some idea of what to pursue, even though it took two years to get the first annual audit done, Cantalupo said.

 

“It’s still in draft form, but I think what the audit report says is that things are in place,” Cantalupo said. “We just have to make sure the annual financial reporting requirements are met as we move forward.”

 

For the last decade or so, CAMPO has been housed within the City of Austin, with the city acting as its fiduciary agent. Mayor Lee Leffingwell noted that certain aspects of CAMPO would have been included in the city’s own financial audits, although he came back and stressed that the independent audit was essential. Any concerns from TxDOT, however, could consider that city audit as a “mitigating issue,” Leffingwell said.

 

CAMPO designates funding for multi-million dollar projects. Its long-term projects involve billions of dollars. The performance of the entities handling those projects is a completely different issue, Cantalupo said.

 

“It is up to the state or the feds to audit those projects,” Cantalupo said. “It has nothing to do with our audit.”

 

Cantalupo also faced some frustration from Commissioner Karen Huber over the discussion of a “transitional” three-year Transportation Improvement Plan, which is scheduled for a final vote in August. Huber wanted earlier decisions.

 

The interim TIP – which will allow the CAMPO board to approve projects between now and the end of the year – is a stop-gap measure that was needed because of delays in the approval of the CAMPO 2035 plan, Cantalupo said. CAMPO did not want to move a three-year plan through the pipeline before TxDOT and CAMPO were on the same page with the region’s long-term projects.

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