AUSTIN (KXAN) — The issue surrounding TxDOT’s billing inaccuracies will now be investigated by the General Investigating and Ethics Committee. At the end of February, Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, sent an official request asking the Committee to investigate TxDOT and their vendors associated with the TxTag system.
“What I suspect is the root cause is the state not properly doing their oversight as it relates to making sure these contractors are doing their job they’ve been hired to do,” Dale told KXAN News.
In the upcoming weeks, the Committee will hear from a host of state agencies, as well as TxDOT, regarding contracting practices and current contracts.
“There’s been three vendors that have run the toll roads since they’ve been put in place,” Dale said. “All 3 contracts have had problems and the one common theme has been TxDOT.”
Dale wants an investigation into whether TxDOT could have done more to prevent thousands of drivers from being over-billed and wrongly charged late fees. The investigation comes as officials with TxDOT say they are still reimbursing customers.They originally promised to be done paying everyone back last month.
“You go through with a toll tag, you expect it to be billed to your account and be seamless and it’s the state’s responsibility to make sure that happens regardless of the contractors you may have operating the toll roads,” Dale said.
In an email to KXAN, TxDOT’s Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Bob Kaufman says they have not received any official notification of an investigation nor has a committee hearing been scheduled.
“As you know we are working closely with lawmakers on this issue and everyday continue to make improvements in our TxTag operations,” Kaufman said in the statement.
House Committee on General Investigation and Ethics
Texas lawmakers now have more authority to investigate misconduct and incompetency in state government, thanks to the new House Committee on General Investigations and Ethics.
This legislative session, Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, expanded a similarly-named committee from five to seven members, re-named it and gave it the ability to investigate a wider range of state agencies and matters. The committee – chaired by Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin – also has subpoena power.
The committee has the authority to investigate “misconduct, malfeasance, misfeasance, abuse of office, or incompetency of an individual or officer” in government. Members may also investigate “transparency in the reporting of financial transactions by agencies of the judicial and executive branches of state government and affiliated entities, foundations, or related support groups.”
In the past two years, a previous iteration of the committee had no business before it, though it was set up to investigate ethical issues involving local and state government. Instead, recent House investigations into University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall and also the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute went to a separate select panel..