The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority oversees the D.C. area's two major airports, but its been criticized for rampant cronyism, waste, abuse and lack of oversight on projects. Now members of the authority's board say they are working hard to improve behavior.
The agency that oversees the Washington D.C.'s two major airports said it is making progress combating waste and abuse after a government investigation and a Washington Guardian report found rampant cronyism and poor spending practices that put tax dollars at risk.
A recent U.S. Transportation Department investigation found that officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority accepted Super Bowl tickets from contractors, gave large salary bonuses, engaged in nepotism by hiring relatives of officials, failed to fully compete two-thirds of contracts to ensure the best price and provided such little spending oversight that one contract alone ballooned in price by 1,700 percent.
The poor performance led MWAA to be awarded last week's Golden Hammer, the Washington Guardian's weekly citation for wasteful spending practices.
The authority, which oversees Dulles International and Reagan National airports, responded Wednesday with a pledge to improve its ethical practices and spending oversight.
MWAA is "making certain that everything we do going forward reflects the best practices of government and industry," said Michael Curto, chairman of the organization's board of directors.
“Let me strongly emphasize, as I have throughout this process, that we take all the issues and concerns cited in these reports very seriously,” Curto said. “Our primary focus in responding to the report is rebuilding public trust, assuring accountability and instituting best practices across the Airports Authority. I want to make it very clear that the Board of Directors and senior leadership are fully committed to taking the measures that are appropriate and necessary to address these issues and concerns.”
The MWAA has leased the two major airports from the federal government since 1986, paying $5 million but earning the right to keep profits from landing fees, concessions and rent from tenant stores. The agency also has received hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars for airport improvement projects like bag security screenings, and the construction of a new mass-transit rail line to Dulles Airport.
But a November report by the Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General said the agency wasn't clamping down on bad behavior.
"MWAA’s ambiguous policies and ineffectual controls have put these assets and millions of federal dollars at significant risk of fraud, waste and abuse and have helped create a culture that prioritizes personal agendas over the best interests of the Authority," the Transportation Department Office of Inspector General said in a recent report that captured the breadth of problems.
Curto said the agency is making improvements and has “completed several major revisions of policy and procedures, and we have a number of other initiatives under way to bring greater transparency, accountability, efficiency and integrity."
MWAA President and CEO Jack Potter said the authority is working hard to clean up its record.
“Clearly, we have much work ahead of us,” he said. ”But we believe these actions are good steps forward toward our goal of building renewed confidence in our organization’s integrity and to demonstrate the highest regard for the public we serve.”
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, or MWAA, is a quasi-governmental organization that oversees the D.C. area's two major airports, Reagan and Dulles. It has leased the airports from the federal government since 1986.
The Transportation Department, or DOT, is the government agency tasked with overseeing and regulating all forms of transportation. An office within the department, the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, is in charge of the nation's airports and airspace.
The Inspector General, or IG, is an independent watchdog office within each government agency that is charged with finding wrongdoing, waste and areas for improvement.