Report Questions ART Planning
City Inspector General David T. Harper's office released a report last week which found several mistakes were made while planning the Albuquerque Rapid Transit system.
The 73-page report, conducted over 5 months, details how the city used general obligations bonds earmarked by voters for other projects to fund ART. According to the review, this was done with the expectation of receiving a $75 million Federal Transit Administration grant.
These GO bonds have to be used for their intended purposes within five years for IRS tax exemption, according to Harper. If the federal grant fails to materialize, the city will be facing serious financial hardships. The grant relies on the city's ability to comply with the Buy America Act, which requires a large amount of the buses' parts to be made within the country. The report raised concerns about a BAA audit which made references to documents that don't actually exist, recommending that officials ensure BAA compliance on future projects.
The report found that bus inspectors employed by the city were not trained to inspect electric buses and used criteria that applied to the city's normal diesel fleet. It also discovered that the city knowingly accepted a bus that was built to specifications intended for the Antelope Valley Transit Authority in California to fast-track its use in public relations events—including its use by former mayor Richard Berry and other city officials during a ceremonial first ride to the Botanical Gardens’ River of Lights event last November.
The report concluded that no instances of fraud had been identified but noted “that it doesn't mean fraud did not occur.” It suggests officials be more careful in the future when using restricted funds meant for other projects or relying on grants that aren't guaranteed.