The Colorado Department of Transportation has problems with completeness and transparency with its annual budget and what information it provides to the Colorado Transportation Commission that oversees it, according to a new audit of the state agency.

An audit conducted by the State Auditor's Office showed that the department has been spending revenue received in prior years but not reporting it on its annual budget reports to the commission.

Additionally, the department does not close construction projects and release unused funds when it is supposed to, and has vendor records that show "suspicious patterns and anomalies that indict a lack of detective controls" to find and deter fraud, the audit said.

"Budget-to-actuals analysis cannot be performed for nearly $1.3 billion — about 80 percent — of the department's approved budget due to a lack of alignment between the budget plan and how the department tracks expenses in the accounting system," the audit said. "The department did not include statutorily required information from the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Plan, including more than $1 billion carried forward from prior years, and construction and maintenance project information."

In its response, the department agreed that there are some irregularities and it has already been working to correct them.

For example, the department says that it has been informing the commission about prior year carryover money, but not when it does its annual budget plan. That is to change.

"While the department asserts most of the statutorily required information is provided today, it acknowledges that it is done so in multiple different places and at different times during the year, resulting in a disaggregated view of the budget," the department wrote to state auditors, which shared their findings with the Legislative Audit Committee earlier this week. "While the budget plan does provide an equivalent for total construction budget, this information could be more clearly communicated. Efforts to update the structure and organization of the budget plan were initiated in 2018. The department intends to make interim changes to the FY2020 budget plan ... with a more complete update to the budget plan to address all statutorily required elements, and further improve transparency, with the adoption of the proposed FY2021 budget plan in November 2019."

As part of that, department staff are to conduct a series of workshops with commissioners as part of an effort to address those concerns and any others the commissioners might have.

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