Auditor: Legislature to blame for $230 million loss from roads fund

OKLAHOMA CITY – An analysis is fighting back against allegations of misuse within the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

Earlier this week, Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes County District Attorney Paul Smith requested the Oklahoma State Auditors and Inspector’s Office “examine the books and accounts” of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

Smith argued that $230 million was missing from the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges Program.

However, the agency said it wasn’t to blame for the lack of funds. Instead, agency leaders said the legislature had tapped into the fund to deal with the budget crisis.

Now, an analysis of the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges Fund is proving that point. State Auditor Gary Jones says the report shows that no funds were missing or improperly diverted.

“By all accounts, ODOT appears to have properly managed these funds which are used to construct or reconstruct county roads and bridges,” Jones said. “We’ve identified $230 million in CIRB funds diverted by legislative action for appropriation to address revenue and budget shortfalls at other agencies. Beyond the diversion of this revenue, we are continuing to look at other issues District 22 District Attorney Paul Smith asked us to review. Those matters will be addressed in a separate report.”

The analysis said that the legislature transferred money from the fund to other agencies in four appropriation bills.

“After the Special Session transfer of $80 million in November 2017, the CIRB Fund balance dropped to $117,975,529,” Jones said. “ODOT had already encumbered $182,449,996 leaving the appearance of a negative balance in the CIRB Fund. If I had to guess, it appears the legislature did not take outstanding encumbrances into account when deciding to transfer the $80 million.”

ODOT officials say that while they were disappointed the funds were removed by the legislature, it is within its authority to reallocate funds.

“The Department was shocked that the allegations of funds mismanagement were made when, in fact, all CIRB funds are accounted for,” ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said. “As is commonly known by county officials, the state Legislature diverted $230 million in state funding from the CIRB program beginning in 2015 and that’s why the fund has a current negative balance.”