Audit says Austin’s Public Works ‘bypassed’ quality management process

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Public Works audit_552485

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin’s Public Works Department wasn’t consistent in tracking project costs and ensuring the quality of projects during 2016 and part of 2015, according to an audit released this month by the city.

“Public Works did not reliably follow its quality management process, and has bypassed it in the past, which may negatively affect project cost and quality,” according to the audit, titled Capital Project Delivery Process. “The purpose of the Public Works quality management process is to find design errors and missing information to reduce unexpected project cost increases during construction.”

Public Works has 19 divisions and the audit focused on three of them: project management, quality management and construction services from Oct. 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2016.

Among the issues detailed in the audit, they found 23 of the 105 projects in construction during the review did not have an assigned investigator, “which appears to violate Public Works’ policies.”

The audit also brought into question the integrity of Public Works’ quality management process.

“In some cases, external pressure regarding high profile or time-sensitive projects resulted in modified or expedited quality reviews,” the audit states. “One project manager said they successfully appealed to city executives to bypass the quality management process when it caused burdensome delays.”

In another instance, auditors said project managers didn’t always agree to the lowest or fairest price when approving work orders.

“Project managers testified that the existing change order policy is burdensome and would lead to extensive project delays if enforced as written,” the audit states. “At times, project managers agreed to a higher price to avoid taking the time to negotiate a lower price that would cost the City more in delays.”

In response to the audit, Public Works Department Director Richard Mendoza sent a memo and action plan on Monday to city auditor Corrie Stokes, stating he agrees with most of the recommendations.

“[The department] disagrees that quality assurance (QA) reviews would have altered the outcome of one of the largest projects identified,” Mendoza wrote. “This project was very complex in nature and implemented using an alternative delivery method, construction manager at risk, not conducive to our current (Quality Management Division) work process.”Click here to read the full audit.

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