Auditor reviewing Big Dig contracts
Overruns on 5 pacts seen more than $500m
By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff , 2/18/2003
tate Auditor A. Joseph De Nucci has begun an intensive review of five major Big Dig contracts that together have had overruns of more than $500 million, officials said.
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On February 11, 2003, Globe reporter Raphael Lewis chatted with Boston.com readers about the Bechtel series.
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The review comes as state lawmakers and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority press forward with their most aggressive attempts yet to recoup money lost to management and design errors that contributed to $1.6 billion in overruns.
Glenn Briere, a DeNucci spokesman, said the goal of the review is to pinpoint errors and other wasteful spending for state lawyers to pursue for cost recovery.
"We've done 17 audits down there, and in 16 of them we found something," Briere said. "There's been $600 million in waste just in the contracts we've looked at, so we're pretty confident that we'll find more."
Last week, state Inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan issued a report that accused the Big Dig's private-sector managers, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, of making a $65 million error on one small area of the project alone.
The report followed a series in the Globe that detailed more than $1 billion in construction cost overruns tied to errors or poor decisions made by Bechtel. The investigation found that state officials have rarely targeted Bechtel for its mistakes, and have yet to recoup any money for losses.
Company officials have defended their management of the Big Dig, saying they have never failed to meet their contractual standards. Bechtel officials also say they have actually saved taxpayers more than $1 billion by shortening the Big Dig's schedule by more than a year.
But state lawmakers apparently feel otherwise. Last week, Governor Mitt Romney pledged to sign legislation that would give the state much more time to file claims against Bechtel for mistakes made on the Big Dig. Current laws allow for just six years after the error is discovered to file a lawsuit. The measure that passed the Senate, 38-0, last week would give lawyers 10 more years after the Big Dig ends in 2005 to pursue cost-recovery claims.
Romney has summoned Bechtel Group's chief operating officer, Adrian Zaccaria, to a meeting this week to explain the company's record on the Big Dig. A Romney spokeswoman said they are still finalizing the date of that meeting. Romney has also pledged to hire an independent engineering firm to scrutinize Big Dig overruns for potential cost recovery.
But DeNucci's office said his review is already underway and will target some of the biggest and most problem-plagued contracts on the Big Dig. One, highlighted in the Globe series, included designs that failed to include the FleetCenter. Cost overruns have topped $128 million on that job.
DeNucci's office will also scrutinize the contract for the Big Dig's electronic security and observation system. That one is expected to double in size from roughly $100 million at bid time to about $200 million when finished.
Alison Mills, a spokeswoman for US Representative Michael E. Capuano, Democrat of Somerville, said he will meet this week with the US Department of Transportation's inspector general's staff to discuss an investigation into the causes of the Big Dig's cost overruns.
Raphael Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sean P. Murphy's e-mail address is email@example.com.